Report: Morristown upheld in bypassing military veteran for police promotion

kathleen and james cullen
Morristown Police Lt. James Cullen, pictured with his wife Kathleen, just returned from serving in Afghanistan with his Coast Guard Reserve unit. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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A Morristown police lieutenant who served as a Coast Guard Reservist in Iraq and Afghanistan is not entitled to promotion, according to a state appellate court ruling upholding a Civil Service Commission decision.

kathleen and james cullen
Morristown Police Lt. James Cullen, pictured with his wife Kathleen,after returning from serving in Afghanistan with his Coast Guard Reserve unit in 2010. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Police Lt. James Cullen, a 26-year police veteran when he returned from a year-long Reserve stint abroad in 2010,  scored highest on a Civil Service exam the following year, but was listed as a “non-veteran,” reports The Star-Ledger.

He appealed that status too late, according to the report, which said the appellate court also found the town acted properly by promoting Lt. Steve Sarinelli to captain.

The town had cited Sarinelli’s experience with Internal Affairs and the Detective Bureau. Cullen had contended his military service, dating to 1997, was held against him, said the newspaper, quoting the appellate decision.

Sarinelli retired last year.

In Afghanistan, Cullen was in charge of a combat hazardous materials unit in the mountains. He also worked with injured soldiers in a trauma unit.

“It was life-changing,” the officer told Morristown Green in 2010. “You’re exposed to things you don’t see in the U.S. You have a new-found appreciation for what we have here.”

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