Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Protesters Demand Cop's Reinstatement in Passaic

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Protesters Demand Cop's Reinstatement in Passaic

Article excerpt

PASSAIC -- Protesters descended on City Hall on Thursday night to demand the reinstatement of Lt. Odalys Rastatter, the trailblazing Latina police officer who has been fighting for nearly four years to get her city police job back.

About 100 demonstrators stood in front of City Hall, chanting "Bring her back to work!" and "We want justice!" as Rastatter, her mother and her sister looked on. Many passing motorists honked their horns in support.

Rastatter, a Passaic native and the first Latina to become a detective and rise to lieutenant, was suspended without pay nearly four years ago for taking two days off during Superstorm Sandy.

Rastatter claims she had the permission of her supervisor, Deputy Chief Matthew Paz, who is now retired, but that the chief at the time, Richard Diaz, had it in for her.

Rastatter never got a departmental hearing, and was terminated in April 2014. She sued the city seeking reinstatement, and in January, Administrative Law Judge Leland McGee ruled in her favor. But rather than reinstate her, the city has asked the Civil Service Commission to reconsider the ruling.

Rastatter's sister, Jessica Rojas, begged the City Council to reinstate her. She said the original charges were "trumped up" and that the city should abide by the court ruling.

"She was fired without a hearing and without due process," Rojas told the council.

A friend, Janice Rivera, a social worker from Hackensack, said the city's decision to continue litigating the case "is unwarranted and an unnecessary disservice to the taxpayers in the city of Passaic.

"As elected officials, we entrust in you the power to serve us, the constituents," she told the council, and asked that it listen to supporters' pleas, "not only with your ears, but with your hearts."

Personnel matter

City Council President Gary S. Schaer listened but said he couldn't comment about the case because it is a personnel matter. He did say that the council would discuss the matter within 30 days.

One member of the audience challenged Schaer and said the mayor has the power to appoint police officers, so it also followed that he would have the power to reinstate Rastatter. …

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