Sunday, June 16, 2013

Letter to Howell Township Councilwoman regarding Police IA exoneration

June 17, 2013

Pauline Smith, Councilwoman
Township of Howell
4567 Route 9 North
Howell, N.J. 07731  via e-mail to psmith@twp.howell.nj.us

RE: Howell Police Department Internal Affairs Procedure

Dear Councilwoman Smith:

I invite your attention to our blog entry entitled "CLOSED: Internal Affairs Complaint against Howell Township (Monmouth County)" which is on-line here.

As you will see, the blog post contains our Internal Affairs Complaint against Howell Police Officer Michael Pavlick with a link to the Internal Affairs Unit's May 11, 2013 letter which exonerated Pavlick.  From a careful reading of the complaint, the Appellate Division decision upon which our complaint was based and the IA Unit's response, it appears that: a) Pavlick did in fact use intimidation tactics to coerce a motorist into consenting to a warrantless search of his vehicle; b) Pavlick's actions did not violate any departmental rules, procedures or other standards and c) the police department, because of our complaint, is undertaking a review of its policies regarding consent searches "in order to clarify any ambiguous language."

While we appreciate the Police Department's responsiveness to our complaint, we can't help but be concerned that coercive tactics that were specifically condemned by the United States Supreme Court in 2002 can be employed by Howell Police nearly a decade later without running afoul of any departmental rules and regulations.  This would suggest that police conduct rules and regulations would benefit from an immediate, top-to-bottom review and that provision be made for periodic reviews in the future.

I write to you individually, so that I have a single point of contact with the Howell Township Council and I ask that you please correspond with me on this issue.  If you view the other cases in our blog, you will see that Howell's is not the only police department where violating a citizen's constitutional rights doesn't also violate a departmental policy.  We believe that police departmental rules and regulations ought to consider any violation of the constitutional rights of a citizen as a per se offense.

I have also copies Manager Helene Schlegel on this correspondence both to keep her abreast of it and to submit the following OPRA request.
Please accept this e-mail as my request for government records in accordance with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access.  Please respond and send all responsive documents to me via e-mail at paff@pobox.com.  If e-mail is not possible, please fax responses and responsive records to me at 908-325-0129.  Also, I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge your receipt of this e-mail.

Records Requested:

1. All policies police rules, regulations, standing operating procedures, directives or training that govern consent searches of motor vehicles, as those documents existed as of March 22, 2011, the date Officer Pavlick arrested Larry Basko. (I refer to the records that the Internal Affairs Unit reviewed when it determined that Pavlick did not commit any violation.)

2. The same records requested in #1 above, as they exist today, to the extent that they are different.
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
Phone: 732-873-1251
Fax: 908-325-0129
E-mail paff@pobox.com

cc. Helene Schlegel
via e-mail to hschlegel@twp.howell.nj.us