Ex-cop hurt while serving in Iraq gets $100K settlement in lawsuit against department
By JEFF GOLDMAN | nj.com | Published: April 27, 2021
SOUTH BOUND BROOK, N.J. (Tribune News Service) — A former South Bound Brook police officer who alleged he was discriminated against because of post traumatic stress disorder he suffered after being injured while serving in Iraq years earlier has settled his lawsuit against the department for $100,000, according to court documents.
News of the settlement, which was reached late last month, was first reported by TransparencyNJ.com.
Kevin J. Klink, of the Skillman section of Montgomery, alleged in the lawsuit two different chiefs created a hostile work environment for him with the second forcing him to retire.
Hired in 2007 by the department, Klink had no issues until 2015 when he got frustrated after not performing well during regular firearms training, according to the lawsuit. Then-Chief William King told Klink, “if you put your gun in your mouth, you wouldn’t miss.”
At another session, King said to the officer, “I thought Marines could shoot, what the hell kind of Marine are you?” The chief then added, “Gotta send you back to boot camp, get Gunny to teach you, Private Pyle.”
Private Pyle refers to a Marine recruit in Stanley Kubrick’s movie “Full Metal Jacket” who was hazed by his drill instructor and fellow soldiers. The fictional character later kills himself. King also allegedly “engaged in other improper and unlawful actions” that are not described in court documents.
King didn’t immediately return a phone message left for him at his home in Somerset County on Tuesday. South Bound Brook Administrator Christina Fischer declined to comment on the settlement on behalf of the town.
Klink filed an internal affairs complaint against King that was later referred to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. The chief later retired in “in good standing” and was never disciplined by the borough.
King’s successor as chief — then-Lt. Jeffrey Titus — headed the department’s internal affair department at the time of the complaint. Titus also declined to comment.
The following year Klink applied to be on the Somerset County SWAT team, according to the lawsuit. He passed the physical and firearms portions of the tests. A doctor who later conducted a psychological evaluation of Klink determined the officer was fit to join the SWAT team, but expressed concerns about the officer’s PTSD, the lawsuit said.
Days later, though, Klink was told he was disqualified from joining the SWAT team, according to the lawsuit. When he asked for paid leave later that day, Titus told him, “don’t even try to pull that,” according to the lawsuit.
Weeks later, Titus ordered Klink to undergo another exam with a different psychologist. The department soon after suspended Klink with pay and charged him with being unfit for duty.
Klink was told the charge would be dropped if he applied for disability retirement. However, the suit alleges the department retaliated and refused to send the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System the necessary information to process Klink’s application, according to the lawsuit.
Klink served two deployments in Iraq — one in 2003 and one in 2004 after enlisting in 2000. During the second, he was injured by an improvised explosive device. Klink was later awarded a Purple Heart and honorably discharged.
Klink was screened for a PTSD in 2006 and hired by the South Bound Brook police the following year. He continues to be treated for PTSD, court papers state.
The less than one-square mile borough has a population of about 4,500.
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