New Jersey Libertarian Party

The Party of Principle

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. There may be other stories posted on the NJLP Police Internal Affairs Complaint Blog page.

This committee has been newly created. If you would like to help or know of a case we should be looking at, contact the committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Woolwich Officer violated Driver's constitutional rights

Those interested in the actions of the Woolwich Township Gloucester County) police may wish to read pages 2 through 9 of U.S. District Court Judge Joseph E. Irenas' April 3, 2012 opinion in the civil case of Terence Jones v. Sean Dalton, et al, Civil Action No. 09-138.

At issue was Woolwich police officer Michael Schaeffer's February 4, 2007 motor vehicle stop of Terrence Jones, a former Philadelphia police officer who is African American. According to the opinion, Schaeffer was extremely antagonistic toward Jones and conducted a fruitless, warrantless search of Jones' vehicle despite Jones' refusal to consent to a search. After Jones filed an Internal Affairs complaint against Schaeffer, the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office (GCPO), without interviewing Schaeffer, filed criminal charges against Jones for giving false information to police. The charges were brought against Jones after the GCPO's investigator, Captain John Porter, "meticulously compared the [Motor Vehicle Recording of Schaeffer's traffic stop of Jones] to Jones' letters and decided to charge the victim [i.e. Jones] despite clear violations of police procedure and the Constitution." Opinion, Page 10. Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton authorized the criminal charges. (Id, Page 9)

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Lawsuit against police for use of excessive force settled for $185,000

Thanks to CATO's Police Misconduct Reporting Project for pointing me to this story.

A former Jersey City man who accused a police officer of excessive force in 2005 is set to receive $185,000 in a legal settlement that the City Council is scheduled to approve this week.

Samy Gattas sued the city, the Police Department, Police Chief Tom Comey, and several officers in federal court, accusing them of violating his civil rights during a 2005 incident in which he was handcuffed and charged with a disorderly persons offense after a verbal dispute with a police officer.

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N.J. police officer tried to set up sexual encounter with 12-year-old girl, authorities say

Thanks to CATO's Police Misconduct Reporting Project for pointing me to this story.

A Passaic County police officer sent a 12-year-old girl explicit photos of himself in uniform and tried to set up a sexual encounter with her, days after meeting the girl while assisting her family in an unrelated police matter, authorities said today. Woodland Park Police Officer Steven Vigorito Jr. pleaded not guilty in Superior Court in Paterson to charges ranging from attempted aggravated sexual assault to luring and enticing a child

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Bogota Police Officer Being Punished for stopping police from beating man

In April of 2011, Bogota officer Regina Tasca called for backup assistance in taking a mentally disturbed man to the hospital. Two Ridgefield Park police officers arrived and immediately rushed in to the scene and started beating on the victim. Officer Tasca attempted to intervene.

Neither of the Ridgefield Park officers have been punished.

Tasca described what we see on the videotape: "The Ridgefield Park officer automatically charges and takes him down to the ground. I was quite shocked. As he's doing that, another Ridgefield Park officer flies to the scene in his car, jumps out and starts punching him in the head."

On the tape you can hear Tara, the mother, and Kyle, her son, screaming, "Why are you punching him?" and "Stop punching me!"

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Did the Middlesex County Prosecutor act ethically?

In exchange for his guilty plea and forfeiture of the $56,000 seized, the State agreed to recommend a non-custodial probationary sentence.

- New Jersey Appellate Division decision, in State v. Al H. Aly, Docket No. A-5249-09T4, decided 04/12/2012

Under New Jersey Law, forfeited cash does not go to the general fund. Rather, "all money seized . . . shall become the property of the entity funding the prosecuting agency involved" and the prosecuting agency "shall divide the . . . money seized . . . with any other entity where the other entity's law enforcement agency participated in the surveillance, investigation, arrest or prosecution resulting in the forfeiture." N.J.S.A. 2C:64-6. (full text at http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2012/2012103Ok//2C64.pdf)

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Dropped 911 call entitles police to warrantless entry of home

At the following link is a December 15, 2011 decision by Burlington County Superior Court Judge Thomas P. Kelly (retired on recall) affirming the conviction of an Air Force Captain for Obstruction (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1(a)) and Resisting Arrest (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-2a(1)). The decision is on-line here: http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2012/2012101is//ReeceCrim.pdf

At issue was a "dropped" 911 call that came from Captain Evan Reece's home in Pemberton Township. (A "dropped" 911 call is a call that is received by police but in which the caller gives no voice response to the dispatcher.) When Sergeant Peter Delagarza came to investigate the call, Reece, in a calm voice and demeanor, told him that he did not place the call.

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Phillipsburg Detective Fires Gun, Lies, Let Off Easy

Phillipsburg Police Detective James P. Stettner II fired his duty revolver into the grave a former teacher and lied about it. He pled guilty in January and was fined $1,250 for discharging a firearm less than 300 feet from a home.

The Police Department is refusing to release the details of the internal investigation or what the department punishment was. Mr. Stettner remains on the force.

According to the Asbury Park Press Data Universe, Mr. Stettner was paid $87,600 by the town of Phillipsburg in 2010. His brother, Robert Stettner, is also a Phillipsburg Police Officer Captain. Their father, James P. Stettner, Jr. is on the Phillipsburg Town Council and is a former Phillipsburg Chief of Police.

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Hillside cop undergoing discipline allowed to draw pension

In response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, I received an August 19, 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Township of Hillside (Union County) and former Hillside police officer Francisco (Frank) Utset. I've placed the MOA on-line here: http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2012/2012067P2//UtsetMemo.pdf

According to the MOA, the Township was in the process of firing Officer Utset for "engaging in conduct unbecoming a public employee" on July 21, 2008. To that end, the Township had issued a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action and suspended Utset, with pay, effective July 21, 2008--the day after the alleged "unbecoming" incident.

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Phillipsburg Letter Concerning Miranda Violations

The Police Accountability Project sent the following letter to the Phillipsburg (Warren County) Mayor and Council. My thought is that even though the Council may not really care if a drug arrestee's constitutional rights were violated by a local cop, the amount of money that the cop's mistake may have cost the taxpayers may impress them.


February 21, 2012

Hon. Harry L. Wyant, Mayor and members of the Phillipsburg Town Council
675 Corliss Avenue
Phillipsburg, NJ, 08865

Dear Mayor Wyant and Council members:

I'm not a resident, but ask that you please review today's Appellate Division decision in the case of State v. Kevin Davis. The decision is on-line here:
http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a5105-10.pdf

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Jury awards $150,000 in punitive damages in shooting death of Ramapough Indian

Thanks to CATO's Police Misconduct Reporting Project for pointing me to this story.

A jury on Wednesday awarded $150,000 in punitive damages to the family of a Ramapough Indian who was fatally shot by a state park ranger five years ago in Mahwah.

With a 7-0 vote, the panel found that former Park Police Officer Chad Walder’s actions were “malicious or wanton” when he drew his gun and shot Emil Mann on April 1, 2006, during a confrontation near Ringwood State Park over ATV riding near Stag Hill.

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Egg Harbor Exonerates Cop Who Conducted Warrantless Search

On May 23, 2011, the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project filed an Internal Affairs complaint against an Egg Harbor Township (Atlantic County) police officer who conducted a warrantless search of a motor vehicle. The complaint was filed after two-judge Appellate Division panel found that Officer Michael Bordanaro's search of a vehicle, which resulted in him finding a loaded 9 mm handgun, was illegal because there were no "exigent circumstances" excusing him from first getting a search warrant.

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Did Northfield Police give break to drunk-driving cop??

On September 29, 2011, Clinton attorney Walter M. Luers filed a lawsuit on my behalf against two Atlantic County municipalities and their police officials seeking disclosure of records pertaining to a curious traffic stop during the early morning hours of February 17, 2011. A copy of that lawsuit is on-line here. A November 10, 2011 Press of Atlantic City article was written about it.

Records I requested reveal that at 2:04 a.m., Northfield City Police observed a black Mercedes sitting at a traffic light while the light went through multiple rotations. Police initially reported that they had difficulty waking the driver and getting him to "open up" the car's door. There were also recorded conversations indicating that the driver was "A.O.B." (which, in police-speak, means "alcohol on breath.")

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NJLP Rule Making Petition Published in NJ Register

As a result of a request from the NJ Libertarian Party Police Accountability Project, the following has been published in the New Jersey Register:

NEW JERSEY REGISTER
Copyright © 2011 by the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law

VOLUME 43, ISSUE 18

ISSUE DATE: SEPTEMBER 19, 2011

PUBLIC NOTICES

LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY
DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

43 N.J.R. 2535(a)

Notice of Receipt of Petition for Rulemaking

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