Police Accountability Project
The Police Accountability Project is a committee of the NJ Libertarian Party. Its goal is to search out cases of police misconduct, file former Internal Affairs (IA) complaints when appropriate, and to publicize violations of rules and laws by the police.
Originally published at newjersey.watchdog.org - republished under agreement. Investigative reporting by Mark Lagerkvist.
On television, Joseph Derrico pursues a monster truck on foot, pulls the driver out of the vehicle and tosses him to the ground. He is on truTV’s “Bear Swamp Recovery,” a reality show on vehicle repos by the “baddest towing team in Jersey.”
Yet Derrico collects a police disability pension of nearly $70,000 a year. In the eyes of the State of New Jersey, the retired Hamilton Township cop is “totally and permanently disabled” by a leg injury.
No stranger to trouble, Derrico was a criminal defendant when he retired in 2010. A Mercer County grand jury indicted Derrico on a felony charge of theft by receiving stolen property.
The patrolman escaped with his pension intact – thanks to a secretive deal with Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini, who dropped the case when Derrico retired.
“No useful purpose would be served by further prosecution of this matter,” stated Bocchini in his motion for dismissal.
On March 10th, the NJ Libertarian Party Police Accountability Project filed an Internal Affairs Complaint with the Stafford Township police department over an officer illegally reaching into the pockets of a suspect without a warrant or due cause.
On Tuesday we received a response from Chief Joseph Giberson, III in response to our complaint. Our complaint was "Not Sustained" because of the retirement of the offending officer his refusal to participate in developing facts in our complaint. However, as a result of our complaint, Chief Giberson has agreed to increase training of his officers in regards to the rules for terry frisks using the basis of our complaint as an example. See the response from Chief Giberson here.
Sergeant Leonard Wolf, Internal Affairs Unit
Vineland City Police Department
111 N. Sixth Street
Vineland, NJ 08360
Dear Sergeant Wolf:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and ask that you accept this letter as our Internal Affairs complaint. We would like your agency to investigate whether Officer Louis J. Plantania and other personnel employed by your agency acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a warrantless search of a motor vehicle on May 25, 2011.
Police Accountability Project of the
New Jersey Libertarian Party
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ 08875
March 19, 2013
Louis Siranides, Internal Affairs Unit
Jersey City Police Department
1 Journal Square Plaza
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Dear Mr. Siranides:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and ask that you accept this letter as our Internal Affairs complaint. We would like your agency to investigate whether Officer Anthony Goodman and other personnel employed by your agency acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a motor vehicle stop and arrest on October 25, 2011.
Internal Affairs Unit
Neptune Township Police Department
25 Neptune Blvd.
Neptune, NJ 07753
RE: Lieutenant Robert Mangold
Dear Sir or Madam:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and ask that you accept this letter as an Internal Affairs complaint. We would like your agency to investigate whether Lieutenant Robert Mangold and other personnel employed by your agency acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a warrantless strip search of Daniel Dolan on October 8, 2011.
Captain Andrew Kudrick, Jr.
Office of Internal Affairs
Howell Township Police Department
300 Old Tavern Road
Howell, N.J. 07731.
Dear Captain Kudrick:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and seek an Internal Affairs investigation into the circumstances surrounding a March 22, 2011 arrest of Larry Basko arrest on West Third Street. The primary Howell officer involved was Michael Pavlick. The facts regarding the arrest are contained in the Appellate Division's March 15, 2013 decision in State v. Basko, which is on-line here.
Attn: Sergeant Anthony Facchini
Union City Police Internal Affairs Unit
3715 Palisade Avenue
Union City, NJ 07087
Dear Sergeant Facchini:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and seek an Internal Affairs investigation into the circumstances surrounding a May 23, 2009 arrest of Juan C. Peguero of 514 3rd Street, Union City. The Union City officers involved were Alex Ruperto, Jose Castillo and Damien DiFazio and Sergeants Dominick DePinto and John Dowling
Peguero's encounter with the Union City Police fits a familiar pattern:
1. The arrestee sues, claiming to have been brutalized by the police. (In this case, Peguero claims that the officers were out looking for him "to punch [him] in the face." When the officers found him, he was punched in the mouth by Officer Ruperto, causing his head to strike a concrete column and then beaten by other officers after he was on the ground.)
Director, Internal Affairs Unit
Stafford Township Police Department
260 East Bay Ave
Manahawkin, NJ 08050-3329
Dear Sir or Madam:
Please accept this e-mail as our Internal Affairs complaint against a Stafford Township police officer whose identity is not yet known to us. He is depicted on a video taken by a patrol car's dash-mounted camera as having patted down and reached inside the pockets of a man who was the subject of a December 26, 2012, 12:37 p.m. traffic stop.
On January 22, 2013, Thomas H. Neff, chairman of the New Jersey Local Finance Board (LFB) notified me that my ethics complaint against Voorhees Township (Camden County) Deputy Mayor Mario DiNatale was dismissed by a 3 to 1 vote. (The LFB has six members, but only four were present at the January 9, 2013 meeting where the vote was taken.)
I had complained to the LFB on January 17, 2012 after reading a January 11, 2012 Courier Post article entitled "Abuse of badges may cost them badges" by Jeremy Rosen. The article reported that Berlin Township (Camden County) police officer Wayne Bonfiglio had stopped Deputy Mayor DiNatale on January 5, 2012 for having a rejected red inspection sticker and improperly tinted windows on his vehicle.
According to a January 5, 2012 e-mail that Bonfiglio had sent to Voorhees Police Chief Keith Hummel, when he approached DiNatale's car, DiNatale held a police badge out the driver's side window. Bonfiglio, who "could not believe that a police officer would openly display his badge on a car stop in front of so many witnesses" asked DiNatale if he was a police officer. According to Bonfiglio, DiNatale "simply replied, 'Voorhees Township Police.'"
I recently read a July 19, 2011 decision by United State District Court Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Maria Broadnax's civil lawsuit against the Borough of South Plainfield and patrol officer Ryan Mote. At issue was the legality of Mote sticking his fingers in the pocket of Broadnax's jeans during a December 11, 2008 traffic stop for driving a car with tinted windows on Route 22. Broadnax had claimed that Mote violated her Fourth Amendment rights by momentarily sticking his fingers, up to his knuckles, in the pocket of her tight bluejeans before she withdrew from the officer causing his fingers to slip back out. In October 2011, a few months after North Plainfield lost its motion for summary judgment, it settled the case by paying Broadnax and her lawyer $5,000. The opinion and settlement are on-line here.
In separate incidents the Sussex and the Warren County Sheriff departments were caught using county owned emergency generators in their personal homes.
In Sussex County, Undersheriff George DeOld resigned after getting caught appropriating two generators for his own use in November. Prior to his resignation DeOld was receiving a $97,000 salary and a $66,537 pension from a former police job in Patterson. It is unknown if his resignation was accepted in exchange for dropping the investigation. It may well turn out that he will add an additional amount to his pension from his Sheriff job.
In March of 2012, after crossing through a park in Hanover Township, a police officer in plain clothes ordered 15 year old Austin DeCaro and his friends to sit down on the curb. Not knowing whether or not the man was really a police officer, Austin started to record the interaction. Upon seeing the camera, officer Joseph Quinn ordered that he camera be turned off or "its going to be mine forever." Bravely, Austin asked the officer "Why?" Quinn responded by tackling Austin, handcuffing him, and arresting him. He was originally charged with Obstruction, Vandalism, and being in the park after dark.
When the video was viewed by the police chief, Stephen Gallagher, all charges were dropped except for the being in the park past a curfew. DeCaro and his family have filed suit against Officer Quinn and Hanover Township with assistance from the ACLU.