The arrest of James Abate came as no surprise to some of the rank and file of the Westfield Police Department. It wouldn’t be the only time that Chief Bernard Tracy would be accused of impropriety with regards to obtaining information on a person illegally.
The parking deck was a hot commodity for him. With the size of this project, the parking department, under the direction of the Chief of Police, would surely need to be expanded to include more personnel to issue tickets, empty meters, etc. It was not out of the question for Chief Tracy to consider retiring with his $80,000 police pension and then return as the civilian parking director making the same amount, if not more.
Don’t be fooled, Bernard Tracy had a vested interest in the parking decks being built. Anyone that stood in the way of those decks being built, possibly stood in the way of Tracy getting his way and that included James Abate who had, on other occasions, spoken out in opposition of the parking deck project.
Others that spoke out against the parking deck project included members of the group WeCare.
To know and work with Barney Tracy was different than to just know him as a department head, the police chief. Those that work/worked for the Westfield Police Department can attest to the retaliatory tactics he engaged in if you crossed him. Just ask Town Administrator James Gildea about Tracy’s behavior on and off “the job”.
Tracy wouldn’t just verbally attack someone if he had an issue with them, he would sometimes physically attack those he had a “beef” with. Just ask the Readington home owner of the property where Tracy’s son allegedly urinated on the lawn after exiting a vehicle being driven by Bernard Tracy on the way to a Balloonfest. Tracy’s response when the property owner objected, an assault on the property owner by Bernard Tracy who then fled the scene to avoid a possible arrest. He would be caught, a phone call would be made, he would "skate." Settled out of court, job saved.
Or how about the alleged assault of a suspect in custody being questioned at the Clark Police Department, Tracy “skated” on that one also; kept his job.
Physical altercations were the name of the game with Bernard Tracy. After all, he would step into the ring with former boxing heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney to train for a charity benefit. If only Cooney new the bully behind the badge, perhaps he would have put a little more power in a left hook when connecting with Tracy’s profile.
There are many that would have liked to see Tracy get “Cooney’d. Must give Tracy credit where credit is due, he did get in the ring with Cooney. Not something I believe anyone in their right mind would do charity or no charity, but he did.
So I guess that James Abate should consider himself lucky that he was only handcuffed as a result of his arrest. With Tracy’s track record, who knows what could have happened if Abate really ticked him off. He could have received a tongue-lashing like the one the little old lady received the day President Bush II came to town to promote social security reform.
Just ask the people that demonstrated against the President’s visit to Westfield’s Armory. Those people were allowed to assemble and protest far from the armory but yet Tracy would find his way over there to show them who was the boss, including the woman that had parked her car where she was not supposed to park.
By the looks of his anger as shown on News 12 that day, she’s lucky he didn’t “Cooney” her. So in the end, James Abate’s handcuffing could be construed as much more humane than being “Cooney’d by Bernard Tracy. But was the road traveled to get to the “cuffing” legal? Did the end justify the means?
Ponder this: Earlier in this decade a woman for the group BRAKES had her name run through Westfield Police Department computers for no other reason but because she had been critical of the lack of enforcement of traffic laws around town. How do I know, I inadvertently witnessed it done. An attempt was made to discredit the woman by accessing her DMV records and Driver’s License history for the purpose of “digging up dirt”. That happened before the Abate arrest.
Then came the latest episode of illegal access of police department computers to obtain information on someone. Bernard Tracy was no longer employed by the Town of Westfield, as Chief of Police. He had retired. The Linden Board of Education would be his next stop, as a security guard.
One day the phone rang at Westfield Police Headquarters, a dispatcher picked up the phone and heard a familiar voice on the other end. The voice, the person on the other end, asked the dispatcher to “run” a license plate check. The dispatcher had a choice, run the illegal computer check or tell the person “no, I can’t do that, its illegal.”
What would the dispatcher claim was the “probable cause” to run the plate? Intimidation? “Probable cause,” a term used to justify the action of accessing the computer for information does not include intimidation as a justifiable or legal reason.
The dispatcher chose to run the plate. Perhaps the dispatcher was worried that if he denied the caller’s request, the dispatcher might not garner the elusive appointment to police officer that he had coveted for several years. After all, the dispatcher knew that the caller still had friends, within the department. Friends that occupied the Chief of Police office and the Patrol Captain’s office, John Parizeau and David Wayman respectively.
A police chief and a patrol captain, two superior officers that could make or break the dispatchers chances of becoming a police officer if the dispatcher didn’t do what the caller had requested. The caller could reach out to his “disciples” and say, “take this, each of you, and deal with it, this is the reason you both were promoted.”
The license plate was run illegally and information was given to the caller. The caller was ex-police chief Bernard Tracy. This time, a person paid the price but it would not be Bernard Tracy, he is immune to discipline. The dispatcher was reprimanded when it was discovered. The dispatcher was lucky that he didn’t lose his job.
The dispatcher went on to become a Westfield Police Officer; the regime continues. Bernard Tracy’s actions as a police officer cost the Town of Westfield hundreds of thousands of $$$. Even in retirement, Tracy could have cost the town even more money had the person, whose license plate was “run” illegally by the dispatcher, discovered his/her information was illegally accessed.
So when Mayor Skibisky asks for facts to back up an opinion that the Abate arrest was retaliatory or an intimidation tactic, and all one has to go on are other incidents of illegal computer checks to obtain information, that bookend the Abate incident, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with an educated guess, a “hypothesis,” of what’s going on. Mayor Skibitsky, I’m not a rocket scientist, and neither are you, but we both took science class in high school. I believe a majority of the people have made an "educated guess" as to why James Abate was arrested that night, after he spoke at a council meeting in opposition of "matters the town council has jurisdiction over."