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."
First, there is nothing in the Attorney General's Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures that requires an IA complaint to be brought in person to police headquarters. Quite to the contrary, the Policy & Procedures welcomes and encourages citizen complaints and requires local agencies to "accept reports of officer misconduct from any person, including anonymous sources at any time . . . regardless of the hour or day of week." In its February 2013 report, page 13, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey found that "[h]aving alternative options for aggrieved citizens [such as telephoning in complaints] is especially important, as citizens are often afraid to file complaints in-person with the very agencies they believe have victimized them." Accordingly, we would like you to ask the Warren Police to remove the instructions on its website that directs complainants to "bring" their complaints to headquarters.
Second, the questions on Warren Township's form are invasive and could easily dissuade people from filing complaints. The form calls for the complainant to identify himself or herself by name, even though the Policy & Procedures specifically allow anonymous complaints. Worse, it asks for the complainant's "alias," date of birth, social security number, race, employer and other information that could easily intimidate a person into not filing a meritorious complaint. We ask that you please direct the Warren Police Department to remove this form from its website and, instead, encourage citizens to report their complaints in any reasonable manner, including anonymously.
Finally, while we have not visited the websites of other police departments in Somerset County, we are concerned that some of them might contain similar barriers. We ask that you please survey the sites of each department within Somerset County and take corrective action wherever necessary.
Thank you very much for your attention to matter.
Very truly yours,
John Paff, Chairman
Police Accountability Project of the
New Jersey Libertarian Party
cc. Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione, via e-mail