Published February 27, 2016 by the Asbury Park Press
The Deal police captain killed in a crash Jan. 2 — who was found to have drugs and alcohol in his blood at the time he died — had been suspended with pay since August 2015, according to Chief Ronen Neuman.
Neuman couldn’t say what triggered the internal affairs investigation, other than confirming authorities had reasonable suspicion Capt. Earl B. Alexander IV was using drugs. The Deal Police Department doesn’t randomly drug test police officers, according to Neuman.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “whatever happened, it was his doing and he hurt himself and it cost — he paid the ultimate price for his negligence.”
Alexander, 38, died when he lost control of his 2007 Acura TSX and hit a utility pole on Norwood Avenue near Perrine Avenue in Ocean Township. The official toxicology report following his death showed a dozen chemicals — including illegal designer drugs commonly known as “bath salts” — and more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
While the Attorney General’s Office mandates that police departments test new hires and test when there is reasonable suspicion of drug use, the policy says departments “may” choose to implement a random drug testing program.
A copy of the borough’s policy shows random drug testing is required for employees who have a commercial drivers license or whose service contracts require random testing.
Alexander’s blood showed signs of a prescription antidepressant sold as Lexapro, prescription sleep medication sold as Ambien, and amphetamine, which can be prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy, though it wouldn’t normally be prescribed in combination with the other two legal drugs, according to Dr. Lawrence J. Guzzardi, a doctor who reviewed the report for the Asbury Park Press.
Deal police policy dictates that an officer has to notify the department if they’re taking prescription medication. Neuman said this involves an officer providing him with a prescription for the medication.
He said the department didn’t receive any prescriptions from Alexander.
Neuman said he is considering implementing a random drug testing policy. But he wouldn’t change any other policies. He said the department was reaccredited by the state about a year ago.
“We have model policies,” he said.
He expressed a mixed opinion on random testing.
He agreed that “of course” random drug testing would be a deterrent for officers who might consider taking drugs.
But he also expressed doubt.
“I don’t think it really weeds out — cause if you check a few guys — at the end of the day, if we do a test today, the guys know probably for a few months you’re not going to have a test,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s not the random drug testing, it’s the other officers on the street that are telling you what’s going on.”
Joseph J. Blaettler, a former deputy chief of police for Union City who testifies in court as an expert witness on police policy, said it’s common for departments to have a protocol for random testing, but it often isn’t used.
“I believe very few departments actually do random testing,” he said.
He described random testing as a useful tool. He said more people struggling with substance abuse might seek help if they knew their department did random testing.
“Would it be wise for the attorney general just to mandate the policy? Probably. Because without the mandate, a lot of police departments are just not going to do it on their own.”
He pointed out that in New Jersey if an officer has a substance abuse problem and seeks help, the department won’t discipline or fire the officer.
“I would urge any police officer that knows he has a problem or she has a problem, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, go to your employee assistance program immediately,” he said.
Police investigated where Alexander might be getting drugs, but Neuman said, “nothing came of it.”The department launched a second internal affairs investigation after the crash that killed Alexander, as they would anytime an officer is involved in a crash, according to Neuman. Both that investigation, and the one into Alexander’s suspected drug use, remain open. No other members of the department have been implicated, according to Neuman.
Following the fatal crash in another jurisdiction, Neuman said the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office would be responsible for looking into where Alexander got the drugs found in his blood.
First Assistant Prosecutor Marc LeMieux said the case of Alexander’s crash was closed.
“This was a motor vehicle accident and there was no criminality to this accident,” he said.
Neuman said he hadn’t disciplined Alexander inbefore the August suspension and that Alexander had no record of substance abuse issues.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “That’s the sad part about this whole case, is that he was a model officer, he moved up to the rank of captain, for a few years he hasn’t even used a sick day.”
Stephen Carasia, borough administrator and former police chief of almost five years, also said he was “absolutely not” aware of Alexander abusing drugs or alcohol.
With Alexander’s death, Neuman lost his right-hand man. They went to Ocean Township High School together, they started out as patrolmen together, they rose through the ranks together. As administrators of the 17-officer department, they ran day-to-day operations together.
Carasia said Alexander entered the department as a dispatcher. He was hired May 1, 1998. He was appointed as a class II officer in 1999.
“Throughout his whole career, he was definitely a good officer,” Carasia said. “He loved his job, was always here, always working, always ready to work when he was called upon.”
Neuman said Alexander once stopped a suspected bank robber while off-duty.
In addition to his position with Deal police, Alexander served as assistant chief of Deal Fire Company 2, was the former chief of the Oakhurst Fire Department and was a volunteer with both first aid squads.
Neuman said he would respond to calls in the middle of the night.
“If there was a first aid call at 2, 3, 4 in the morning, a fire call, he’d come to work,” Neuman said, “And he’s like: ‘you know that fire you saw on TV, I was there til 5 in the morning, I was there til an hour ago.’”
Neuman said he once saved a woman’s life by performing CPR.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to judge every person on his own character,” Neuman said. “You can’t judge me because someone in my department did something wrong. Every business has got someone that’s not doing the right thing and we try to address it every day. And no one’s perfect.”