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 May 1, 2014, the City of Plainfield (Union County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a local woman who sued members of the Plainfield Police Department for allegedly assaulting her and using excessive force against her.
In her suit, Shelby Vattelle said that on December 19, 2010, during a motor vehicle stop, Plainfield Police Officer Michael J. Auriccio, "threw [her] to the concrete, smashed [her] face into the pavement" without justification. She also claimed that Auriccio applied handcuffs too tightly and threw her to the ground again at Plainfield Police Headquarters. There, she said, another officer "ripped [her] boots from her feet, breaking one of the heels."
On May 11, 2008, the City of Wildwood (Cape May County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a local bar owner who sued members of the Wildwood Police Department for allegedly harassing him and his bar patrons and issuing bogus summonses.
In his suit, Michael C. Petaccio, who operated the Fairview Cafe, said that Officer David Romeo and Sergeant Terry Osler entered his bar on two occasions and harassed his customers even though the establishment was operating legally. In the first instance, Petaccio claimed that Romeo entered his bar on June of 2004, prior to the mandated 3 a.m. closing time, arrested Frank Miller, the D.J. who was providing music that night and later issued summonses for "playing music at one minute past 3:00 a.m." Petaccio claimed that he and his bar were ultimately acquitted of the charges.
A 16-year officer in the Mendham Township Police Department has filed suit against the force, alleging he has been bypassed twice for promotion and denied chances to earn overtime because he refuses to “profile” young drivers for tickets.
On May 5, 2014, the Boroughs of Collingswood and Woodlynne (Camden County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a Woodlynne man who sued members of the Collingswood Police Department for allegedly assaulting and arresting him without probable cause.
In his suit, Earl Whaley said that on August 25, 2008, he was playing cards with his friends on his front porch in Woodlynne. He claimed that even though he was creating no disturbance, Police Officer Brian Eidmann falsely stated that a neighbor had filed a noise complaint and told Whaley and his friends to "keep it down." Whaley claimed that when he "voiced his objections forcefully and with occasional profane word" Eidmann "barged through the closed screen door and onto the screened in porch" and "ripped the chair out from under [Whaley] and then struck him one or more times about the face." Whaley said he was arrested for disorderly conduct but was later acquitted.
It appears from the lawsuit that Woodlynne contracts its police services out to Collingswood Borough.
In an undated agreement, the Borough of Roselle Park (Union County) agreed to pay $15,000 to an Elizabeth woman who sued a Roselle Park Police officer for "illegally, improperly and without probable cause" issuing her a summons for unlawful parking in a space marked for the physically handicapped.
In her suit, and according to an Appellate Division decision, Lorraine Selecky said Officer James Cantrell issued her the summons by mail after Cantrell, while off duty, interjected himself in an "intense argument" that Selecky was having with her 13-year-old daughter as they approached a Redbox video machine outside a 7-Eleven store in Roselle Park. Cantrell was already at the Redbox machine with his children when Selecky and her daughter approached. According to the Appellate Division decision, "a heated argument occurred between [Selecky] and Cantrell, either because [Selecky] thought Cantrell's children were taking too long in making their choice or because Cantrell interjected himself in [Selecky's] mother-daughter dispute."
Hackensack pays $50,000 to settle Muslim father's claim that police beat him in front of family and called him a "f***ing terrorist."
On April 15, 2014, the City of Hackensack (Bergen County) agreed to pay $50,000 to a local businessman and his family who sued members of the Hackensack Police Department for excessive force and hate crime violations.
In his suit, Fouad Dakka said that on April 7, 2007, he brought his 11 year old daughter to the Hackensack Police Department at the direction of Detective Tina M. Clouse in order to be processed under a complaint "that some other girl filed against her in retaliation for plaintiff's daughter having filed a complaint against this girl." He said that because he was Muslim and of Arab descent, he was nervous and arranged to have an attorney be with him during this encounter with police. Dakka claimed that when he arrived at the police station, he advised Clouse that his attorney was parking his car and would be in the station to accompany them in a moment.
Clouse allegedly "became extremely irate, indicated that she refused to wait even a second for any attorney or for any reason . . . [because] it is Saturday and she was already late for her personal plans for that day." Dakka alleged that Clouse "lunged forward at" the 11-year-old, grabbed her arm and attempted to pull her into the police department. Dakka said that he and his daughter were hugging each other protectively while she was being pulled by Clouse.
Russell W. Leffert, Chief
Warren Township Police Department
44 Mountain Boulevard
Warren, NJ 07059
Dear Chief Leffert:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and ask that you accept this e-mail as our Internal Affairs complaint. I am forwarding this complaint to you, as Chief of Police, because there is nothing on your web site identifying the person within your Department to whom an Internal Affairs complaint should be directed.
We would like your agency to investigate whether Officer Robert Ferreiro (as well as any other officers and personnel employed by your agency) acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a June 10, 2010 motor vehicle stop and subsequent warrantless search of a vehicle driven by Troy Henderson.
Thomas J. Chirichella, First Assistant Prosecutor
Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office
40 North Bridge Street
Somerville, NJ 08876
Dear Mr. Chirichella:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and have some concerns that the instructions on the Warren Township Police Department's web site regarding filing of an Internal Affairs complaint are too onerous and may dissuade some people from filing. I am directing this e-mail to your attention (with a copy to Freeholder Director Scaglione, who is the liaison to the Prosecutor's Office) because you are listed on the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office website as the legal director to the SCPO's Internal Affairs Unit.
I invite your attention to the page (on-line here) on Warren's site that instructs potential IA complainants to complete the Complaint Form (on-line here) and "bring this completed form to Warren Police headquarters."
March 21, 2014
Internal Affairs Unit
Burlington Township Police Department
851 Old York Rd
Burlington, NJ 08016
Dear Sir or Madam:
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 Sergeant David Brintzinghoffer (as well as any other officers and personnel employed by your agency) acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a July 5, 2006 incident involving Demetrius Cope.
According to the Appellate Division's March 21, 2014 decision in State v. Demetrius C. Cope, Docket No. A-2165-11T3 (on-line here), Sergeant Brintzinghoffer conducted an unconstitutional "protective sweep" of Cope's apartment that resulted in him finding a firearm in "plain view." The Appellate Division ultimately ruled that the firearm is inadmissible because it was "discovered and seized as a result of a warrantless search that did not fall into any of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement."
March 19, 2014
Internal Affairs Unit
Little Egg Harbor Police Department
Attn: Detective Kenneth Schilling
665 Radio Rd
Little Egg Harbor, NJ 08087
Internal Affairs Unit
Ocean County Prosecutor's Office
Attn: Detective I.N. Bauman
119 Hooper Ave
Toms River, NJ, 08754
Dear Detectives Schilling and Bauman:
As you are aware, I serve as the Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and had filed a February 18, 2014 Internal Affairs (IA) Complaint (on-line here) against Little Egg Harbor Police Officer Christopher G. Costa regarding a February 18, 2014 incident involving Ricky Brown of 114 Jefferson Lane, Little Egg Harbor. As you are also aware, I filed a subsequent, February 28, 2014 inquiry with the Ocean County Prosecutor (on-line here) after Mr. Brown told me that he had been stopped and ticketed by Little Egg Harbor Police immediately after he left the police station to follow up with Lieutenant Troy A. Bezak, to whom my IA complaint had been assigned. A copy of the summons issued to Mr. Brown is on-line here.
In my February 28, 2014 letter, I expressed concern to the Prosecutor's Office about the timing of the traffic stop and suggested that it may have been in retaliation against Mr. Brown for reporting the February 18, 2014 incident to me. In its March 7, 2014 letter (on-line here), the Prosecutor's Office acknowledged my letter and advised me that the Little Egg Harbor Police Department would continue to handle the IA investigation.
Unbeknownst to the officer who issued Mr. Brown the summons on February 28, 2014 is that Brown had audio-recorded his conversation with that officer during the traffic stop. A .wav file of the relevant portion of that conversation is on-line here. About fifteen seconds into the recording, the officer disclosed that he knew that the purpose of Mr. Brown's visit to the police station was to "talk to Lieutenant Bezak."
UPDATE: Since I wrote the below story, my daughter and I visited Sean in the jail. I've rewritten the below story with details I have learned during my visit.
When Edward Forchion, aka NJ Weedman, left the Burlington County Jail on January 28th it marked the end of his sentence for probation violations related to an arrest for medical marijuana possession. He was carrying with him a very disturbing letter from fellow inmate, Sean Turzanski. Sean's letter tells the story of an elderly homeless man, Mr. Robert Taylor. Mr. Taylor is known to have been in and out of jail and to have a drinking problem. He was known as Drunk Santa Claus.
According Mr. Turzanski, Mr. Taylor was thrown onto a concrete floor, stripped of his clothes wearing only a prison "turtle suit" without any other clothes, blanket or mat. For 5 days Mr. Taylor did not eat. Mr. Taylor was non-verbal and given no care. On December 29th Sean heard Mr. Taylor begging for help. Sean yelled to get the attention of the Correction Officers on duty but was told to "shut up". The next day the Officers checked on Mr. Taylor and found him dead lying on the concrete floor in the same position where he was thrown five days earlier.
New Jersey Police Accountability Project of the
New Jersey Libertarian Party
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ 08875
January 6, 2014
Internal Affairs Unit
Highland Park Police Department
222 S. Fifth Ave.
Highland Park, NJ 08904
(Via webform submission)
Dear Sir or Madam:
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 Lieutenant Gary Panichella and other officers and personnel employed by your agency acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a September 18, 2008 incident involving Jerome Shaw and Ada Knowles.
On Monday, April 8, 2013, I reported that Oaklyn Borough (Camden County) Councilman Ronald C. Aron, who also serves as a police officer in nearby Haddon Township, had sued in Superior Court to challenge a police disciplinary charge that had been lodged against him.
In the same blog entry, I also reported that Aron had settled his lawsuit and appeal with the Township and agreed to: a) plead guilty to "conduct detrimental to the good order of the police department," b) accept a 10 day unpaid, disciplinary suspension, c) forfeit 80 hours of accrued sick time and d) accept a "one year demotion from the rank of sergeant to patrol officer" which had already been served.
What I didn't know then, but have subsequently learned, is the nature of the conduct that caused the disciplinary action to be taken against Aron.
Something interesting is going on with the Wildwood Crest Police Department. I've been submitting Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests to try to find out what's going on, and this is what I've found out so far.
On October 24, 2013, the Wildwood Crest Board of Commissioners passed Resolutions 1131-13 and 1132-13, which, respectively, a) hired Joseph Beisel as a "special outside investigator for purposes of conducting an internal affairs investigation concerning employees administrative proceedings," and b) hired William G. Blaney, Esq. to perform some unspecified, but apparently related, services regarding the same investigation. Yet, according to Borough Clerk Janelle M. Holzmer's November 26, 2013 responsive e-mail "no contract was entered into for Mr. Beisel."