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By ALEXANDER MacINNES, Herald News, North Jersey Media Group

A police department cadet has been dismissed from the Passaic County Police Academy after he was stopped for allegedly driving erratically by Passaic County sheriff's officers and given a field sobriety test.

Richard Diaz Jr., 21, the son of Passaic police captain and Board of Education president Richard Diaz, "showed obvious signs of impairment" but was not charged with a violation, according to the sheriff's incident report, Diaz could not be reached for comment, and his father declined to comment other than to confirm his son's dismissal from the academy. The elder Diaz added that he was staying away from his son's situation so as to not interfere with the case.

Passaic police Chief Stanley Jarensky did not return calls on Thursday afternoon seeking comment.

Diaz was stopped with a female passenger at 1:40 a.m. on Nov. 2 at Maine Avenue and Autumn Street, after allegedly nearly colliding with parked cars and drifting within a driving lane, according to the incident report, a copy of which was obtained by the Herald News.

He was given a field sobriety test by the sheriff's officers who made the stop. According to the incident report, sheriff's officers were interrupted when Diaz told them he was a city police employee.

The incident report goes on to state that there was an odor of alcohol inside the vehicle. It also states that Diaz refused directions during the sobriety test, that he failed to comply with instructions and had "watery" eyes and "droopy" eyelids. Despite that, the officers discontinued the test and did not charge him with any violation.

"I feel confident that our officers handled it appropriately," said sheriff's spokesman Bill Maer. "The individual was taken into custody by the Passaic police. We feel nobody was treated any differently than was appropriate."

Maer added that the sheriff's officers were following a policy that requires them to release city police officers to that department when under suspicion of a violation in their jurisdiction. The county officers were in Passaic conducting patrols because they are contracted with the Passaic Housing Authority.

According to the report, sheriff's Officers Antonio Gagliostro and George Rosenthal were sitting in a marked unit in the Chestnut Village Housing Complex when a white sport utility vehicle "came close to striking a parked vehicle."

The sheriff's officers followed Diaz, noticing he "rolled through the stop sign and stopped into the lane of traffic," according to the report. The officers continued to notice the "Jeep was drifting from side to side in the lane," and on Oak Street, it almost struck a row of parked cars before "quickly turning away to avoid collision."

"As he spoke, I could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming form (sic) the vehicle's interior," Rosenthal wrote in his report.

Rosenthal asked if Diaz had been drinking and he said "no," according to the report. He asked Diaz to step out of the vehicle and administered a series of field sobriety tests.

"During the tests he failed to comply with my directions and continued to ignore repeated directions throughout the tests," Rosenthal continued. "Diaz showed obvious signs of impairment and further into the interview it was discovered that he was an employee of the Passaic Police Department and currently in the Passaic County Police Academy."

At that point, Rosenthal contacted the Passaic dispatch center, and Sgt. Carlos Figueroa came to the scene, retrieved Diaz and brought him back to headquarters to be interviewed.

Diaz's father said his son was in the department on Thursday morning, though it is unclear whether he remains a police department employee. He was hired in August with a base pay of $33,156, according to city records.

Reach Alexander MacInnes at (973) 569-7166.
November 11, 2005
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