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.
On September 18, 2016, the Elizabeth City Council (Union County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a Roselle Park man who said that he suffered a fractured back after having been stomped by police.
In his lawsuit, Luis A. Padua said that on April 8, 2011 he was waiting for a ride outside of a parking garage on West Grand Street when he was approached by Captain Torner (presumably Tyrone E. Torner) and Officers A. Vrohidis and Marcos Diaz. Padua claimed that the officers, who had been notified of a vehicle theft at the parking garage, "began to beat and kick [Padua], pushing him against a wall and stomping on his back, to the point where his back was fractured." Padua claimed that the officers fabricated Obstruction, Resisting and Criminal Trespass charges against him that were eventually dismissed.
Also named in the suit were Police Chief Patrick Shannon and Police Director James Cosgrove.
The case is captioned Padua v. City of Elizabeth, et al, Federal Case No. 13-cv-04645 and Padua's attorney was Shelley L. Stangler of Springfield. Case documents are on-line here.
None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants. All that is known for sure is vthat Elizabeth or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Padua $30,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.
Police agencies keep a tight lid on the facts surrounding police disciplinary charges and typically won't even confirm or deny that charges have been filed. But, when a cop decides to appeal the discipline imposed, an OPRA request can sometimes dislodge the appeal paperwork.
Such is the case regarding the appeals of Troopers Kenneth Franco and Georgina Sirakides, both of whom are charged with giving news journalists photographs taken in 2009 of five Troopers celebrating a Camden drug bust by waiving a Puerto Rican flag. Those photographs and celebration have received extensive publicity including articles in the Star Ledger and MyCentralJersey, as well as a spot on Fox News 29.
Earlier today, in response to my OPRA request, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law sent me the appeal paperwork on Files 07412-15 (Sirakides) and 07406-15 (Franco). Both officers are being represented by David J. Azotea of Atlantic City.
According to the specifications, Franco and Sirakides worked with "former Division member Victor Cooper" to inform journalists about Trooper Kenneth Sirakides, who is apparently Georgina Sirakides' estranged husband, being involved in a "Velocity Sports Performance Internet video" and for waiving the Puerto Rican flag in the drug bust photos.
I wrote the following letter today to the Mayor and governing body of Haddon Township in Camden County.
February 16, 2016
Hon. Randall W. Teague, Mayor and
Commissioners Paul Dougherty and John C. Foley
Township of Haddon
Dear Mayor Teague and Commissioners Dougherty and Foley:
Would you please add to tonight's Caucus Meeting agenda a discussion of Haddon Police Officer Jason Dement's compliance with the Education Requirement Policy contained within Police Department General Order 95-3.
G.O. 95-3, which I obtained on February 1, 2016 by way of an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, requires all Township police officers to "have earned the minimum of a Baccalaureate Degree from an accredited college or university, having maintained a 2.0 minimum grade point average."
The NJ Libertarian Party Police Accountability Project and the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government have submitted a joint Amici Curiae (Friends of the Court) Brief to the New Jersey Supreme Court concerning a lawsuit between the North Jersey Media Group and the Township of Lyndhurst.
In January 2015, the North Jersey Media Group was granted access to records of a police shooting where an unarmed man was shot and killed by police during a high speed chase. Several police agencies were ordered to turn over these records by a Superior Court Assignment Judge.
On October 7, 2015, the City of Pleasantville (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $50,000 to a local man who said that a police canine was ordered to attack him and other officers beat him after he was already handcuffed and face down on the ground.
In his suit, Jalal Whitted, who suffers from a pre-existing psychiatric condition, said that police were called to his home on December 6, 2013 because he had a knife in his possession. After his mother convinced Whitted to drop the knife, he and his mother stumbled and fell to the sidewalk in front of their home. Whitted said that while he was on the ground, police handcuffed him.
|Richard F. Turner
On October 30, 2015, the Township of Weehawken (Hudson County) agreed to pay $747,000 to a Township Police lieutenant to settle his two lawsuits, two disciplinary actions and to provide for the lieutenant's retirement.
In his federal suit filed in 2008, Richard DeCosmis claimed that Mayor Richard F. Turner led a campaign of retaliation against him because he publicly criticized Weehawken's alleged misuse of state funds intended for a Park and Ride to develop a parking lot "to benefit a private building developer and political contributor to Mayor Turner and his allies." DeCosmis claimed that the alleged retaliation was also sparked by his refusal to allow Union City Mayor Brian Stack's campaign signs on his property, because of his support of "another political candidate running against Mayor Turner's political faction," and because DeCosmis filed a 2007 civil rights lawsuit against Turner "because [of] his unlawful interference with the day-to-day interference with the Weehawken Police Department and public corruption."
Winslow Police Chief
On November 2, 2015, the Township of Winslow (Camden County) agreed to pay $2,500 to a local man who sued police for wrongfully detaining him.
In his suit, James E. Tice claimed that on May 7, 2013, Winslow Patrolman Michael Gibson took his cell phone and frisked him without probable cause. When Tice asked Gibson why he was being detained, Gibson allegedly arrested him for disorderly conduct and released him an hour later without charging him. Tice, who represented himself in the lawsuit, claimed that Gibson violated his Fourth Amendment rights "as there was no probable cause tostop, detain, search or arrest plaintiff for being on a street in a town where he resides." Tice claimed that he filed an Internal Affairs complaint against Gibson and that his complaint was sustained and resulted in Gibson being discplined.
The case is captioned Tice v. Township of Winslow et al, Federal Case No. 1:13-cv-06894 and Tice represented himself. Case documents are on-line here.
The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms. Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.
None of Tice's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $2,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Winslow or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Winslow or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Tice $2,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.
Court to determine disclosure of investigative records related to allegations of misconduct by Cape May Sheriff
|Gary G. Schaffer
Cape May County Sheriff
On Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson will hear oral argument in the case of John Paff v. New Jersey State Police, et al, Docket No. MER-L- 1984-15.
At issue are two State Police investigation reports pertaining to allegations that Cape May County Sheriff Gary G. Schaffer was involved in misconduct or impropriety while he worked at the Cape May Police Training Academy and the Ocean City Aquatic Center.
The State Police have admitted that it possesses two investigation reports into Schaffer's alleged misconduct but refused to release them because they are "exempt from access as criminal investigative records." My lawyer, CJ Griffin of Hackensack, argues that under the common law right of access citizens have a great need to see the records so they can assure themselves that the allegations were fairly investigated and not just swept under the rug.
When Shore News Today reporters asked Sheriff Schaffer last year for a comment on the investigation, he was quoted as having said that he would “not comment on a blog.”
This originally appeared on Cop Block.org.
A former Camden detective, who was fired after he assaulted a 15 year old in 2005, had his termination upheld by an appellate court on Tuesday. Detective Lawrence Norman and fellow Officer George Ingram beat the teen, who was only identified as “A.F.” due to his age, after he was arrested in a drug sting.
On Oct. 19, 2005, officers were conducting an investigation into drug sales that involved dealers selling to undercover police. A.F. allegedly sold heroin to an officer and Ingram and Norman tracked him down to the inside of a house, where he was found hiding in a closet.
According to a disciplinary notice, Ingram and Norman then took A.F. to a “secluded location where they beat him in an effort to get him to disclose the location of drugs that he retained after his drug sale to the undercover officer.”
On April 27, 2015, the County of Bergen agreed to pay $350,000 to a County Police sergeant who sued Police Department officials for allegedly retaliating against him for exposing alleged illegal activity in the department. $140,000 of the settlement amount went to the sergeant and $210,000 was to compensate his lawyer.
In his suit, Robert Carney, who previously headed the Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit, said that Police Chief Brian Higgins and Captain Uwe Malakas retaliated against him for complaining about a culture of cronyism that permitted officers to allegedly tamper with and steal evidence, illegally discharge firearms, falsify official reports and abuse sick time policies without fear of being disciplined.
On March 2, 2015, the Township of Deptford (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $35,000 to a Wenonah man who sued members of the Deptford Police Department for allegedly arresting him for video recording police and for possession of "saltine cracker crumbs."
In his suit, John Cokos said that he was walking to Gloucester County College on November 10, 2011 carrying a video recorder. He said that Deptford Township Police Officer Matthew Principato made an abrupt U-turn and asked him "what his intentions were with the video camera." Cokos said that he didn't answer Principato's question and instead asked "whether he was charged with any offense, and, if not, . . . whether he was free to leave."
On May 28, 2015, the Borough of Peapack Gladstone (Somerset County) agreed to pay $51,000 to a formal Special II police officer who sued the Borough's mayor and council, attorney and police chief for retaliating against him for having complained about a fellow officer.
In his suit, Michael DiLullo, who was appointed as Special Police Officer, Class II in 2003 after having retired from the Somerset County Sheriff's Department, claimed that Officer Thomas Scanlon "hacked into" the Police Department's Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) and obtained a text message that DiLullo had sent to another officer. The contents of DiLullo's text message caused DiLullo to be "suspended without pay from his duties for a period of time."
On May 27, 2015, the City of Wildwood (Cape May County) agreed to pay $29,000 to a Vineland man who sued members of the Wildwood Police Department for applying excessive force.
In his suit, Kenneth Carey said that on August 28, 2010 Wildwood Officer Andrew Grenaro "exercised unlawful and excessive force" upon him at 248 E. Schellenger Avenue. Carey, whose lawsuit contains no specifics of his interaction with police, also claimed that Grenaro "unlawfully seized" him and discriminated against him "because of his race."
This originally appeared on Cop Block.org.
It is not like the police state needs any more tools or weapons at its disposal, but the New Jersey State Police are getting one anyway. Introducing the “Ghost Car” that will supposedly help keep the roads safe by having undetected cops on the road. According to ABC6 Action News:
Motorists on New Jersey highways may see the newest car patrolling the roads. Then again, they may not.