Saturday, March 16, 2013

CLOSED: Internal Affairs Complaint against Howell Township (Monmouth County)

March 16, 2013

Captain Andrew Kudrick, Jr.
Office of Internal Affairs
Howell Township Police Department
300 Old Tavern Road
Howell, N.J. 07731.
Via E-mail to akudrick@howellpolice.org

Dear Captain Kudrick:

I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and seek an Internal Affairs investigation into the circumstances surrounding a March 22, 2011 arrest of Larry Basko arrest on West Third Street.  The primary Howell officer involved was Michael Pavlick.  The facts regarding the arrest are contained in the Appellate Division's March 15, 2013 decision in State v. Basko, which is on-line here.

A trial judge found that Pavlick's discovery of illegal drugs in Basko's van during a warrantless search could not be used as evidence against Basko.  Even though Basko had consented to the search of his van, the trial judge found that Basko's consent was coerced by Pavlick.  According to the decision, Basko initially refused to consent to the search but changed his mind after Pavlick threatened to "call a drug detector dog over" and that if the dog alerted to the presence of contraband, the police would impound the van and apply for a search warrant.

We note that the tactic used by Pavlick--threatening to call in police dogs unless a motorist consents to a search--was referenced in the case of State v. Carty, 170 N.J. 632, 645 (2002).  In that case, New Jersey Supreme Court quoted the United States Supreme Court's statement--particularly apt here--that “‘Consent’ that is the product of official intimidation or harassment is not consent at all. Citizens do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they are coerced to comply with a request that they would prefer to refuse.” Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 438, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 2388, 115 L.Ed.2d 389 (1991).

As part of your investigation of matter, we ask that you determine whether or not Officer Pavlick, through his training, was taught to refrain from using coercive tactics to secure "consent" to warrantless searches.  If he was so taught, we ask you to impose discipline upon him.  Otherwise, we ask that you update your training to address this issue.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Police Accountability Project
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ  08875
Voice: 732-873-1251
Fax: 908-325-0129
e-mail: paff@pobox.com

---Subsequent action

May 11, 2013 - complaint dismissed because officer's conduct "did not violate any rules, regulations, standing operating procedures, directives or training." (here)

June 17, 2013 - OPRA request and letter of inquiry to Howell Township Councilwoman (here).