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Crime Probation officer fired after drug raid at Winslow home

19:06  18 february  2020
19:06  18 february  2020 Source:   courierpostonline.com

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TRENTON - A probation officer injured during a drug raid at her home has been dealt another blow — the loss of her job,

Rhonda Harland had been suspended without pay since March 2018, when Winslow police and Camden County sheriff’s officers forced their way into her Sicklerville home.

Police arrested a suspected drug dealer, the boyfriend of Harland’s adult daughter, and seized crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia during the raid at a Medford Court residence, according to a ruling in the case.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Rhonda Harland, a senior probation officer with the Camden vicinage of New Jersey's Judiciary, has been terminated after a drug raid at her home.© Jim Walsh, Courier-Post Rhonda Harland, a senior probation officer with the Camden vicinage of New Jersey's Judiciary, has been terminated after a drug raid at her home.

Harland, who has denied any wrongdoing, was charged with obstruction of justice after she did not act on officers’ repeated commands to open her front door.

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Intensive probation , home detention, GPS monitoring, Computer Management. Unsupervised probation does not involve direct supervision by an officer or probation department. After the offender is found guilty, the probation officer puts together a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI).

In 2014, after a marijuana raid resulted in the death of one officer and the wounding of five (as well as of the suspect, who hanged himself in jail), the state enacted a law requiring annual disclosures about tactical raids . The initial results show that many departments use dynamic entry almost by default.

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The state Civil Service Commission upheld the officer's dismissal, according to minutes of the board's Jan. 29 meeting.

Harland's attorney, Paul Melletz of Cherry Hill, could not be reached for comment.

That decision came after an administrative law judge found removal was “the appropriate penalty” for Horland, a senior probation officer who served 14 years in the state Judiciary’s Camden vicinage.

Police said they saw Harland at a picture window near her front door at the start of a 6 a.m. raid. They said Harland disappeared from view as she walked toward the door, which remained shut despite the officers’ orders.

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When police used a battering ram to enter the house, they found Harland on the floor behind the door with a bruise to her forehead.

Sheriff’s Investigator Charles Seixas said Harland told him the door had hit her head.

Due to the location of her injuries, Seixas believed Harland "was looking out the peephole on the front door when the door was forced open,” according to a ruling by Administrative Law Judge David Fritch.

The raid came after an informant made two drug purchases at the house during a Winslow police investigation, the ruling said.

In an account of the raid, Seixas said he saw Harland get up from a couch behind the picture window as another officer pounded at her door.

Seixas, who was in uniform and illuminated by a porch light, said Harland looked at him as he repeatedly shouted “that they were police and were there with a warrant.”

Officers became concerned when the door did not open, testified Sgt. Zachary Kolins of the Sheriff’s Department.

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If the probation officer believes that the person under a probationary period has what it takes to kick the drug , he or she may issue community service after the first warning. This action is to try to rehabilitate the person or attempt to correct the behavior.

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He noted “persons inside the house could be destroying evidence or preparing to ambush officers upon entry." The ruling said officers also saw the alleged drug dealer, Irving Rogers, looking from a second-floor window.

Kolins said Harland disappeared from view "for at least 10 seconds, a period which 'seemed like forever.'"

“There were no communications from inside the house to alert officers outside that anyone was coming to open the door,” he added.

Once inside the house, officers arrested Rogers in an upstairs bedroom. Thirteen heat-sealed baggies with crack cocaine and a digital scale “containing suspected cocaine residue” were in plain view on a dresser in the room, according to testimony by Winslow Police Detective Robert DiGerolamo.

Also in the room were Jaida Harland, the probation officer’s daughter, and two small children.

Rogers pleaded guilty to a charge of drug possession in January 2019.

Harland said she was aware Rogers had been on probation for a drug conviction in September 2015 and that he’d been arrested for a similar offense while riding in a car with her daughter in October 2017.

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Fritch's ruling said Harland had notified a court administrator of her daughter's presence at the October 2017 arrest, resulting in the transfer of Rogers' probationary supervision out of the Camden vicinage.

But Harland contended she had not known Rogers was spending nights in her daughter’s bedroom prior to the raid, or that he’d allegedly sold drugs from the house.

The probation officer said she’d repeatedly told Rogers he could not be in her house due to her job, although she acknowledged encountering him in the house at least twice over the previous month.

Fritch’s decision also said Harland’s husband noted the probation officer’s concern “about Rogers sneaking into the house at night.”

Harland acknowledged seeing an officer through her window during the raid, but said she had not heard anyone knocking or saying they had a warrant.

"When I got up, I'm disoriented," said Harland.

“If they given me 11 seconds, maybe I would have had that door open, instead of 10 seconds,” she said.

But the 55-page ruling found "the preponderance of the credible evidence shows that (Harland) did not comply with the lawful orders (to open her door).”

Among other points, the judge said Harland "was on the couch, with her head right next to the front door … when the police arrived.”

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His decision also noted other people in the house reported hearing the officers, and that Rogers went to an upstairs window in response to the noise.

Fritch found Harland knew Rogers was staying at her home and “had ample reason” to believe Rogers was using her residence for illegal activities — “even if he was doing so without her express permission."

The judge observed Horland was acquitted of the obstruction charge, a disorderly persons offense.

But a Judiciary official testified that was not relevant to her dismissal for conduct unbecoming a public employee and for violating the code of conduct for court employees.

Gil Velasquez, the chief probation officer for the Camden vicinage, testified "public trust was damaged by the criminal charge, regardless of whether or not (Horland) was convicted."

He said a code of conduct requires Judiciary employees “to avoid actual or even the appearance of impropriety.”

Jim Walsh is a free-range reporter who’s been roaming around South Jersey for decades. His interests include crime, the courts, economic development and being first with breaking news. Reach him at jwalsh@gannettnj.com or look for him in traffic.

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This article originally appeared on The Courier-Post: Probation officer fired after drug raid at Winslow home

DA: 69 convicted on possible false evidence by ex-Texas cop .
HOUSTON (AP) — Prosecutors announced Wednesday they believe 69 additional people might have been convicted on false evidence from a former Houston police officer whose cases are being reviewed following a deadly drug raid. The announcement comes after judges earlier this month declared innocent two brothers who had been convicted based on testimony from former officer Gerald Goines. Goines’ work with the Houston Police Department's narcoticsThe announcement comes after judges earlier this month declared innocent two brothers who had been convicted based on testimony from former officer Gerald Goines.

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