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Lawsuit: Cops were penalized over politics

Six Long Beach police officers have filed a $39 million federal lawsuit accusing officials from the city, department and their own union of retaliating against them for supporting Republican candidates in the 2011 election campaign.

The six say that within days of his appointment last January, acting police Commissioner Michael Tangney, a former Democratic Party committeeman whose wife ran for Nassau legislative office, began a vendetta against them that included demotions, graveyard shifts and administrative charges.

Meanwhile, they say, then-union president and Police Officer Stefan Chernaski, who had supported Tangney's wife in her campaign, ignored their appeals for help, receiving raises and promotions from Tangney.

Plaintiffs James Canner, Karl Hayes, James McCormick, Jose Miguez, John Radin and Benjamin Tayne, all long-serving and decorated officers of the 75-member department, are described as Republican supporters in the suit.

City of Long Beach spokesman Gordon Tepper said in a phone interview last night that "the city believes there is no merit to these claims."

Ken Apple, now the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the union would "vigorously defend any allegations."

He went on to say that "every allegation contained in the suit with relation to the PBA is baseless."

The suit alleges that Tangney gave Chernaski, "a political confidant and ally," a $20,000 raise, two simultaneous promotions, 887.5 hours of personal and vacation time and expungement of earlier disciplinary charges "as a reward for his support."

Canner and others suffered for their politics, according to the suit. Canner has heart palpitations as a result of the "threats, tactics and actions" taken against him since 2011. Hayes, after learning of his demotion by phone, "began to cry hysterically for 3-5 minutes."

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