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‘Cooping’ cop caught on camera

BELLEVILLE –

A township cop has been disciplined after having been caught sleeping in uniform in a patrol car during a moonlighting stint.

Belleville Police Chief Joseph Rotunda said last week that Police Officer Jesse Mc- Keough has been suspended with pay following a departmental hearing conducted by Township Manager Kevin Esposito.

At that hearing, the officer was found guilty of misconduct, Rotunda said.

Asked the duration of the suspension, Rotunda declined to disclose that information.

“We don’t say for how long,” the chief said.

McKeough has been on duty with the Belleville police force since successfully completing his training at the Essex County Police Academy in March.

First-year cops make about $46,000 a year in Belleville, the chief said.

Rotunda said McKeough was working a private security detail at a mall on Franklin St. on Sept. 9. During his shift there, a passerby saw him asleep at the wheel of his parked patrol car in the early morning hours, snapped a photo of him and posted it on Facebook, where it ultimately came to the attention of police brass.

Once the Police Department became aware of the incident, “we were proactive – we were on top of it. It was an unfortunate incident. Obviously we don’t tolerate it,” the chief said.

And while officers are permitted by union contract to take side jobs, providing security for local retailers, for example, “they still have to comply with Belleville Police Department rules,” Rotunda said.

Local merchants and businesses can arrange private security jobs through the township Police Department for a specified hourly fee which includes the use of a township squad car, one councilman explained.

Asked whether there had been any prior instances of moonlighting cops “cooping” since he’s been on the force, Rotunda said he could “recall one other incident going back many years.”

That individual was similarly disciplined, he said.

– Ron Leir

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