Appeals Court Awards
Disability Pension To Famous Detective
COURT HIKES DISABILITY AID
The Star Ledger
David Toma, the former Newark
detective whose colorful career inspired the television shows "Toma" and
"Barretta" yesterday was awarded an increased disability pension by a state
appeals court on the basis of work-related injuries.
As a detective investigating
vice, gambling and narcotics, Toma became a master of disguises and gimmicks
in order to infiltrate a suspect's surroundings.
He could turn into a Good
Humor man or a hippie in a matter of minutes thanks to the costumes he
kept in the trunk of his Plymouth. He worked alone, chose his own
targets and ran up a successful conviction record on the thousands of arrests
But, as the court pointed
out, along the way he was hurt several times and the injuries took their
Among other incidents, Toma
was bitten on the thumb and treated for blood poisoning, thrown to the
floor while trying to subdue a violent 300 pound mental patient, overcome
by smoke while helping rescue residents of a burning apartment house, and
beaten and stabbed while attempting to break up a fight in a diner.
His 17 years on the force
resulted in serious back damage, a severely injured mouth and jaw, and
recurring headaches and dizziness.
Toma, 46 and a resident of
Clark, served as a consultant to the TV show bearing his name and appeared
in a cameo role in each program. After the show's star Tony Musante
left the program, the popular "Baretta," which was also based on Toma's
police career, started with Robert Blake in the lead part.
The former detective is highly
sought after as a speaker and lectures throughout the country.
When it came to Toma's pension
for his service to the Newark Police Department, however, members of the
retirement board balked at granting him benefits based on a disability
resulting from accidental events and instead gave him the regular disability
pension, which is lower.
But yesterday, Appellate
Division Judge Leon Milmed, in an opinion joined by Judges John Crane and
Michael King, reversed the board saying, "We are convinced the evidence
demonstrates that (Toma's) permanent and total disability has been directly
brought on by a combination of traumatic events occurring during and as
a result of his performance of his
Martin Kronberg, Toma's lawyer,
said the court's action in awarding his client an accidental disability
retirement allowance means the former detective will receive a pension
equal to two-thirds of his last year's pay rather than getting the lower
ordinary disability allowance.
Reached at his home, Toma
said he hopes the ruling helps other policemen who were injured in the
line of duty.
"It shows other policemen
that if similar things happen don't be down on yourself. The decision
will enhance the situation for policemen all over the country," he said.
Referring to his fame, Toma
pointed to his physical difficulties as well and stated, "I paid the price."
He said he still has a hard
time getting to sleep and added that when he lectures he often "feels like
Toma's lecturing has taken
him to elementary and high schools all over the nation. His talks
are designed to help students come to grips with their problems, including
the use of drugs and alcohol.
A movie on his life is under
production and two television networks are again interested in doing a
series based on his experiences, he said.