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 March 11, 2015 the Township of Byram (Sussex County) agreed to pay $10,000 to a Newton man who sued the Byram Police Department for maliciously prosecuting him for drunk driving.
In his suit, Arthur M. Pirone said that on June 25, 2013, he was driving on U.S. Route 206 when in a "trance like mental status proximately caused by undiagnosed sleep apnea disease" he was "invoked in multiple collisions with street signs and a utility pole." When Byram Officer John D'Onofrio responded to the incident, Pirone alleged that he immediately concluded that he had been drinking and arrested him for drunk driving even though there was no odor of alcohol present. Pirone claimed he was taken to a hospital where blood was extracted from him when he was unable to consent. He claimed that he was ultimately found not guilty of the drunk driving charge.
This story originally appeared on Cop Block.org.
You know it’s got to be bad for correctional officers to actually be reprimanded for abuse. I mean who are prisoners going to run to? It’s known that prison guard misconduct is common. In fact, prison guards are alleged to be involved in half of prison related sexual assaults. Michael Fowlkes and Richard Serrano both are being charged with excessive force, with Fowlkes having a “conduct unbecoming” charge tacked on. The details of the brutality have not been released, so I guess what exactly they did being known would be bad for business. It looks like they will probably keep it concealed as well, as Victor Bermudez, a correctional officer union rep has already been quoted as saying:
“As state delegates, we stand by our membership and are doing everything in our powers to reinstate our officers.”
I hope that Chief Dellane can clarify why his officer apparently did not file his written report until nine months after an arrest was made. My letter to the Chief follows:
April 20, 2015
Thomas Dellane, Chief
Stafford Township Police Department
260 East Bay Avenue
Manahawkin, NJ 08050
Dear Chief Dellane:
I am writing on behalf of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project regarding the March 2, 2013 arrest of Vasilio Koutsogiannis by Stafford Police. Mr. Koutsogiannis has been in touch with us and has claimed that Officer Robert Conforti's report, especially the part regarding Koutsogiannis' sister verbally conveying her father's consent to a police search of his residence, is fabricated.
Roselle park police department
110 East Westfield Avenue
Roselle Park, NJ 07204
Record Room: 908-245-1100
On January 7th 2015. Our friend, Christopher Larriva, was paid a visit by a Roselle Park NJ detective long with two other officers. In one marked and one unmarked car. They wanted to question him about a photo he’d taken and posted on instagram. It was of a loaded magazine for a gun. To the left is the picture he posted.
There is not even a gun in the shot. The detectives insisted on seeing the gun at his doorstep. Chris was wise enough not to let them inside and talked to them on the porch. He told the officers it was not his gun. There was no gun in the picture and who it belonged to. After threatening him with home invasion if he didn’t show them the gun. And after Chris questioned the detectives on the illegality of taking pictures and owning firearms, the detectives turned their attention to Chris’ employer. Who was the LEGAL gun owner. Chris had taken the photo on a day his boss was headed to the range, and that’s where the photo generated from.
On September 24, 2014, two veteran Stafford Township (Ocean County) police officers sued the Township and Police Chief Joseph Giberson claiming that a promotional examination for the rank of Sergeant concluded in 2013 by the Stafford Township Police Department was "unlawful . . . arbitrary and capricious [and] manipulated by" Chief Giberson and Township officials.
According to a federal civil complaint filed by Stafford Police Officers David L. McVey and Drew G. Smith, sixteen officers applied for position of Sergeant in 2012. The applicants underwent a two-part examination consisting of "Phase I" which was a multiple choice, written test and "Phase II" which was an evaluation by superior officers, including Chief Giberson.
Lakewood agrees to withdraw disciplinary complaint against cop in exchange for cop's resignation. Cop's "drug use" will be reported to the State
In a December 17, 2014 "Confidential Agreement," the Township of Lakewood (Ocean County) agreed withdraw a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action filed against a police officer on June 16, 2014 in exchange for that officer's resignation. While the basis for the disciplinary charge is not specified, the agreement requires the Lakewood Police Department to "report [the officer's] resignation and drug use to the New Jersey Drug Registry." This suggests that the officer's disciplinary charge was related to his possession or use of illegal drugs.
Update: The Judgment of Conviction (JOC) in my original post referenced a separate indictment numbered 13-06-1490. The JOC made the probationary charges for both charges run concurrently. I submitted another Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office (OCPO) to find out the nature of the charges that resulted in I-13-06-1490. The OCPO's response is on-line here. The new charge alleged that on February 8, 2013, O'Reilly, "in an attempt to keep [victim Shirley Mullen] from testifying in legal proceeding [called Mullen] and threaten[ed] her by stating that she will never make it to court." Judge Blaney downgraded the original charge of Witness Tampering-Third Degree to Harassment, which is a disorderly persons offense, and sentenced O'Reilly to a two-year probationary period to run concurrently with the probationary sentence imposed for the assault charge. He also ordered her to pay $125 in state assessments
On June 13, 2014, Ocean County Superior Court Judge James M. Blaney sentenced a female Point Pleasant Borough (Ocean County) Police Communications Officer to two years probation for knocking another woman unconscious by hitting her in the head with a wood log.
I often report of incidents where police officers give preferential treatment to fellow officers. This is not one of those times.
From reading a Camden County Prosecutor's Office "Special Prosecutions Summary Report" on-line here, I learned that an unidentified Camden Metro Police Officer was suspended for 47 days for having a motor vehicle accident while allegedly driving intoxicated in Stratford Borough (Camden County) on October 26, 2013. Harper pleaded guilty on January 10, 2014 and was assesses a total of $664 and had his license suspended for 90 days. The court's disposition is on-line here.
Police Departments in New Jersey are required to annually report a synopsis of all Internal Affairs cases that resulted in imposition of a 10-day or greater fine or suspension. Jersey City provided redacted reports for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 which I've placed on-line here.
I believe that the types of charges, some involving criminal conduct, against these officers may be of interest to readers.
01/22/15 UPDATE: North Bergen police have confirmed that the March 28, 2011 entry regarding a male police officer allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old girl in North Bergen motel related to Officer Marcos Kelly. This is not news as it has been written about in the Star Ledger. The Jersey City IA roster confirms that Kelly was allowed to enter into the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program and can never again hold "any office or position of honor, trust or profit under this State or any of its administrative or political subdivisions." North Bergen's police incident report is on-line here.
I have recently learned that the Township of Manchester (Ocean County), on or about May 20, 2014, appealed an Ocean County judge's February 21, 2014 decision to reinstate a Township police officer to his position after the Township fired him on June 29, 2012. The judge also awarded the officer all back pay and, in a separate opinion issued on April 24, 2014, declined to require the Township to pay the officer's attorney fees.
The New Jersey Attorney General's Vehicle Pursuit Rules require each law enforcement agency to annually prepare a "Vehicular Pursuit Summary Report" setting forth the number of police vehicle pursuits and the number of accidents, injuries and deaths resulting from those pursuits. I collected examples of these summary reports from two police departments at opposite ends of the state--Bridgeton (Cumberland County) and Mahwah (Bergen County). I have placed the reports on-line here.
The reports help citizens get a sense as to how frequent police chases are in their towns. They also provide information that can lead to additional Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests. For example, Bridgeton's 2013 report shows that one police injury and one police car accident occurred during a high speed chase. Interested citizens could request the police report for that incident.
Submachine Guns: The Gift That Keeps On Giving - Donation of Submachine Guns in Lakewood Raises Eyebrows
It's already controversial for our nation's local police departments to receive surplus assault rifles and equipment from the US military for use by law enforcement officers. It's a whole other ball game for these weapons to be donated by a member of the community in appreciation of the police's help with a local religious festival.
Records show that an unnamed religious community events organizer was so appreciative of the help that New Jersey's Lakewood Township and its police department gave during a September carnival that they wanted to make a donation to the local police department. What did this anonymous organizer want to donate? 10 brand new assault rifles from Israel. Ones that they had test fired themselves on their last trip there.
On November 26, 2014, the Ocean County Department of Corrections agreed to pay $25,000 to a county jail inmate who claimed that he was assaulted by a jail guard. Additionally, the jail guard was charged with aggravated assault and resigned from his job after entering the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI).
In his suit, Armando Penales said that on December 22, 2012, while he was in the Ocean County Jail awaiting sentencing on a robbery charge, he was assaulted "without justification" by Corrections Officer Timothy Browning. He also claims that he was denied medical treatment for the injury he received and that Browning filed a disciplinary charge against him for "Refusing to Obey an Order of any Staff Member" which was later dismissed.