Original article no longer available
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
The doctor for a Weymouth police captain involved in an alleged shoplifting incident testified that the officer he was treating was suffering from symptoms of depression and side effects from medication.
Captain Gregory Tanger has been charged with displaying conduct unbecoming of an officer and using his professional status as a police officer to avoid criminal charges when he was allegedly caught shoplifting at an Abington Walmart on August 4, 2003.
The hearing officer, Police Chief James Thomas is expecting to make a decision on the case by May 27.
Tanger maintains he did not leave the vestibule of the store with a five-gallon fish tank and two toy race cars he had allegedly not paid for.
Tanger was not arrested for the incident, but was summoned to court. He was not found guilty and was given six months of pretrial probation and 24 hours of community service. He was ordered to stay away from Walmart for those six months and had to pay $200 to Walmart’s corporate headquarters in Arkansas.
Stephen Dubin, Tanger’s psychiatrist, said that Tanger had experienced the onset of a mild confusional state brought on by mixing medications for depression and for a rotator cuff injury.
“The sudden onset affects your executive judgement,” Dubin said.
Dubin noted that Tanger also told him he had left his truck running when he went into the Walmart.
“That makes no sense,” he said, saying that leaving a vehicle running in a parking lot with a potentially large number of people around was an indicator of affected judgement.
After an initial evaluation, Dubin said Tanger displayed several signs of depression, including a change in mood, loss of sleep, loss of appetite and weight, lack of motivation, and excessive worrying.
Dubin said after beginning treatment, Tanger’s condition improved, but in May of 2003, Dubin said Tanger’s symptoms returned and were worse.
Tanger was still dealing with the deaths of his mother and his aunt, who he had thought was his grandmother. They both died within two weeks of each other, Dubin said.
When he returned, Dubin said Tanger was now suffering from the loss of his “professional identity,” after he was placed on administrative leave for allegedly abusing the police department’s bereavement policy and showing up late to detail duties.
“Not only was he more depressed, he was demoralized,” Dubin said. “He was proud of his police work, he had respect for his profession. His professional identity was literally removed.”
Tanger’s attorney, Richard Bardi, asked Dubin if Tanger’s mental condition that day could have caused him to begin to leave the store with the items.
Dubin replied, “In his condition, absolutely.”
Taking the stand, Tanger himself outlined the events of August 4, 2003.
After getting just one hour of sleep the night before, Tanger said he was going to Walmart to pick up prescriptions before going to his deceased aunt’s house for the last time to pick up some items.
Tanger said he felt “tired and stressed” because it was the last time he was going to set foot in the house he had lived in for 19 years.
Earlier that day, Tanger said he got into a fight with his then-fiancée after he had accidentally thrown away a fish tank while cleaning his house.
While in the store, Tanger said, “I don’t know what I was thinking that day.”
Tanger said while in the store, he remembered he had no dog food and walked over to the aisle to get some. On a nearby display, Tanger saw a fish tank and picked it up.
On his way out of the store, he stopped and spoke to a greeter and then began to exit the store.
Tanger said the loss-prevention associate confronted him inside the vestibule and before he had stepped outside the store.
Guy McIlvaine, the loss-prevention associate who intercepted Tanger said he stopped him outside in the parking lot. Disputing his testimony, Tanger said he was still inside the building.
The district loss-prevention supervisor had searched for video surveillance tapes of the incident but found nothing.
Evidence from an Abington police officer who arrived on the scene of the incident and the loss-prevention associate said that Tanger had a “lapse of memory” and that he had “forgotten to pay.”
“I had money and credit cards that day to pay for it,” Tanger said.
Tanger said he had no intent to steal anything that day and the subsequent media coverage along with the grief and stress he felt over his job and the deaths in his family compounded the tension and embarrassment he felt following the incident.
Near the conclusion of the hearing, Bardi said that the loss prevention associate who made the apprehension of Tanger in 2003 did not follow Walmart’s policy of loss-prevention procedures.
That procedure is an employee cannot apprehend a suspected shoplifter alone but must have a salaried member of store management with him.
“His failure is in part why we’re here today,” Bardi said.
Bardi said McIlvaine was the only witness to testify he stopped Tanger out in the parking lot; the store’s co-manager at the time and the district loss prevention supervisor both said Tanger was stopped outside but not in the parking lot.
“He was tired, stressed out and over medicated,” Bardi said. “This is beyond embarrassing and could be career ending. What he did was a mistake; it was an accident.”
However, Assistant Town Solicitor James Lampke, representing the town of Weymouth, said the incident was not a misunderstanding.
“I don’t doubt he was grieving the loss of family members,” Lampke said, adding that at the time Tanger knew enough to purchase specific items.
Lampke said Tanger’s decision to not come forward after the incident complicated the case.
“He never called when the complaint was issued [by the Abington Police Department],” Lampke said. “Is that conduct becoming or unbecoming of a police officer?”
“None of that took place. He never contacted the town over this,” he said.
Lampke also said it was logical to conclude that if he was not stopped, Tanger would have continued to exit the store.
Earlier that week, almost a dozen character witnesses testified on Tanger’s behalf, each saying his alleged actions that day were out of character.
The witnesses were all long-term friends and acquaintances who knew Tanger on a professional and personal level.
Christopher J. McCray, 39, from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, said he met Tanger 20 years ago through a mutual friend.
McCray said Tanger was “morally upstanding” and a “pillar of the community,” and he had never known him not to be truthful and honest.
Sam Chu, 44, former owner of the Cathay Center on Bridge Street that burned down in late December of 2004, said he knew Tanger for close to 30 years.
“He would come by and check on the establishment,” Chu said. “He’s always been a fair person; an honest person.”
Also testifying on Tanger’s behalf was Doctor Mehbooba Anwar, the medical director of the Massachusetts Respiratory Hospital.
Around 1973, Anwar had hired Tanger’s mother as a nanny for her children. Shortly after she said she met Tanger.
“He has been an important part of my family,” she said. “I’ve always seen him as a gentleman, and a kind, caring, polite person.”
Stephen P. Romano, 54, treasurer of Carver, said he took a liking to Tanger from the “get go.”
Romano said Tanger was a man of “honesty” and “integrity.”
When he first heard about the incident, Romano said, “My reaction to that was I thought it was a setup. That was not the Greg Tanger that I know.”
Robert Manning, 47, owner of a jewelry store said, “Only a few officers make themselves known, but Tanger was almost like the beat cop.”
Manning said he trusted Tanger enough to leave him alone in his jewelry store.
About the incident, Manning said, “Somehow he forgot to pay for it. I know he was on some medication, and I know he’s a guy who has a lot on his mind, but he would not do something like that.” [ continue]
This is the second administrative hearing for Tanger.
The first hearing examined allegations that Tanger was late to detail duties beyond the allowable timeframe and that he had abuse the police department’s bereavement day policy.
Tanger was given an unpaid suspension of 60 workdays, which he is appealing to the Civil Service Commission.
Thomas said he intends to make a decision on the second case by May 27th.