NEW CITY NY June 17 2017- A retired police officer has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Rockland Police Academy director and the police chiefs association of retaliation by dismissing him as an instructor after he reported potential illegal practices at the training facility.
Francis Brooke, a former Spring Valley officer who worked at the academy, claims "whistle-blower" status as part of this federal civil rights lawsuit against academy Director Steven Heubeck, Sheriff Louis Falco and several police chiefs who oversee the academy.
Brooke worked as a basic school coordinator as an independent contractor from Jan. 1, 2016, until his contract was not renewed Jan. 1, 2017. He was paid $75,000 through his company, FMB Enterprises.
He contracted with the county facility after 28 years with the Spring Valley Police Department with 30 awards for exemplary service. He worked many years as the DARE and school resource officer assigned to Spring Valley High School. He was an academy trainer during his career on defense tactics and firearms instruction.
Brooke complained during 2016 to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services that there was a continued pattern of uncertified instructors teaching at the academy. He claimed he was concerned the courses taught by uncertified instructors could be nullified, according to a Rockland County Attorney's Office report.
That report determined there apparently was a "personality conflict between Heubeck and Brooke as well as a deep philosophical divide regarding police training."
The problems led to Brooke's contract being terminated in July 2016. Only Rockland County Executive Ed Day can terminate a contract, and he rescinded the directive dismissing Brooke.
Brooke accused the director of using unaccredited instructors and filing false paperwork omitting the names of those instructors with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services involving security guard classes.
Brooke pointed out that Heubeck had signed those rosters "under penalty of perjury."
A DCJS official later supported Brooke's allegations about the security guard course. Heubeck admitted in July that administrative errors led to the names of uncertified instructors being omitted on the forms, according to the County Attorney's Office report.
Brooke's lawsuit claims that in July 2016 he was told his contract was being terminated by the sheriff, supported by the Police Chiefs Association Board of Directors.
Heubeck told the County Attorney's Office that Brooke was "insubordinate and a danger to the recruits," claiming Brooke pinched recruits and forced them to train and run outdoors, even in frigid weather and pouring rain. Heubeck claimed Brooke could have seriously injured a recruit who was on crutches following a stress fracture.
Brooke told the County Attorney's Office the pinches were “monkey bites” and were made out playfulness and that he stopped on Huebeck's orders, the report states.
"With respect to training outside in inclement weather, Brooke feels very strongly that recruits should train in all-weather as they will be outside in all-weather as police and security guards," the report states.
As for the student who suffered a stress fracture, Brooke responded that he procured a wheelchair for her so that her injury would not prevent her from participating in most of the instruction and that he did not humiliate her and never insisted that she participate in any physical activities on crutches, according to the report.
Brooke's lawsuit states he reported the problems of uncertified instructors in March 2016 to the county and his former boss, Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica, the president of the Rockland Police Chief's Association.
Brooke's lawsuit is seeking a judgment that Heubeck and the others violated his rights under federal and state law; compensatory and punitive damages for his financial loss, embarassment and mental anguish, and payment of his legal fees. He wants a jury trial.
Those named in the lawsuit have not yet responded in federal court to Brooke's lawsuit.
Neither Huebeck nor his lawyer responded to messages seeking comment. Huebeck is looking to retire this month.
Huebeck, an Army veteran and retired FBI agent, is seeking $46,609 in pay for the first six months of 2017 since he worked without a contract. Day submitted a resolution to pay Huebeck that has been referred to the Legislature for approval. The county has sent out a solicitation seeking a successor to run the Police Academy.
Falco, who appoints the academy director, declined comment on the pending lawsuit.
Rockland County Attorney Thomas Humbach said his office is still evaluating Brooke's claims. He's representing the academy and several of those named in the lawsuit.
"I will agree those are his claims," Humbach said. "I have to wait for the proof to come out."