Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DISCIPLINED: IA Complaint against Newark Police officer

Police Accountability Project of the
New Jersey Libertarian Party
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ  08875

April 17, 2013

Lt. Antonio M. Domingues, Internal Affairs Unit
Newark Police Department
247 16th Avenue
Newark, NJ  07103
(via e-mail to dominguesa@ci.newark.nj.us)

Dear Lt. Domingues:

I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and ask that you accept this e-mail as our Internal Affairs complaint.  We would like your agency to investigate whether Officer Vernon Bradbury and other personnel employed by your agency acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a motor vehicle stop and arrest on May 13, 2011. 

According to the Appellate Division's decision in State v. Long, Docket No. A-1857-12T3 (on-line here), Bradbury testified that when he pulled over Nelson Long for speeding, drugs "fell to the ground" when Long exited the vehicle.  Bradbury said that an ensuing pat-down turned up more drugs in Long's sweatpants pocket.

At a court hearing, the Hon. Verna G. Leath, J.S.C., said that Bradbury's testimony "simply does not make sense."  She found that the motor vehicle stop was "more than pre-textual" and that "in fact there was no motor vehicle traffic violation at all that would have justified a stop."  She further found that Bradbury's claim that the drugs fell to the ground "was not credible."  Accordingly, she suppressed all the drugs found as having been unlawfully obtained, i.e. "fruit of the poisonous tree."

Judge Leath, in essence, found that Officer Bradbury fabricated his justification to stop Long's vehicle.  And, she strongly suggested that Bradbury lied about the drugs falling to the ground and that he instead found the drugs only after an illegal search.

We know nothing more about this incident than that which is reported in the Appellate Division's decision.  We file this complaint solely on the strength of Judge Leath's finding that Bradbury did not testify truthfully. The Internal Affairs unit, however, can obtain the evidence, including Bradbury's testimony, upon which Judge Leath made her determination.  Further, you can interview Bradbury, Long and any other witnesses to discern what really occurred.  Accordingly, we call on you to conduct a full investigation of this matter.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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

04/17/13 Complaint acknowledged (click here)
04/25/13 Formal acknowledgement (click here)
12/20/13 Prosecutor releases matter (click here)
01/23/14 Officer to be disciplined (click here)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

CLOSED: IA Complaint against Paterson officers determined "not sustained"

On May 27, 2011, the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project filed an Internal Affairs (IA) complaint against Detectives Carlos Charon and Florence Ackerman of the Paterson (Passaic County) Police Department.  By way of a two-sentence letter dated March 29, 2013 (on-line here) Detective Sergeant Manuel Hernandez "concluded that the allegation was not sustained."  According to the Attorney General's Internal Affairs Guidelines, this means that "the investigation and a review of all information failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation."

I have written back to Detective Sergeant Hernandez asking him to provide me with a more substantive and detailed response.  My letter is on-line here.

The matter arose out of the Appellate Division's May 26, 2011 decision in State v. Anyoli R. Gonzalez, Docket No. A-0962-07T1, which is on-line here.  The decision indicates that Defendant Gonzalez, during his interview with Charon and Ackerman unequivocally requested an attorney.  Yet, Charon and Ackerman, "essentially changed the subject by asking whether he wanted to continue with his statement."  This line of follow-up questioning, according to the court, improperly "placed the burden on [Gonzalez] to reassert his right to counsel."  The court ultimately court suppressed Gonzalez's videotaped interview because of the Detectives' improper questioning. Further, Charon changed Gonzalez's unequivocal request for lawyer, which was in Spanish, to a request for a lawyer "later."  Thus, it appears that Charon, perhaps intentionally, attempted to alter the record of what was said to mislead the court.

--Subsequent action

04/10/13 - Paterson states that reason for finding was that "the video tape involving the interview of Anyoli R. Gonzalez by the two detectives could not be located."  Click here for Paterson's letter.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

CLOSED: Tinton Falls Internal Affairs Complaint

April 3, 2013
Hon. Gary Baldwin, Council President
Borough of Tinton Falls
556 Tinton Ave
Tinton Falls, NJ, 07724
gbaldwin@tintonfalls.com

RE: Police Internal Affairs Complaint

Dear Council President Baldwin:

Introduction:


I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and intend this e-mail to be our Internal Affairs Complaint against "Officer Schuler" (presumably Officer Joseph M. Schuler) of the Tinton Falls Police Department. 

I realize that I am supposed to file such complaints with the Tinton Falls Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit, but the police department's Internet site provides no information on internal affairs complaints nor does it identify the internal affairs contact person.  Accordingly, I am sending my complaint to you.

Would you please a) forward this e-mail to the proper person within the police department and b) encourage the police department to give the public, through its web site, at least basic information about its internal affairs unit or function?  In its Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures Manual, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) cites the importance of the internal affairs function, referring to it as "an important means of protecting the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the citizens of this State."  (p. 3) Given the DCJ's stated view, I think that you will agree that internal affairs deserves at least a mention on the Borough's web site.

Nature of Complaint:

According to the Appellate Division's decision in State v. Idivine Clark, Docket No. A-3977-10T4 (on-line here), motorist Idivine Clark was stopped for driving without a seatbelt and detained for a while because police smelled an odor of raw marijuana coming from Clark's car.  After Clark refused to consent to a search of the vehicle, the vehicle was impounded until a search warrant was obtained approximately two days later.  Although Clark was not arrested on the day of the stop, Officer Schuler conducted a warrantless search and seized $866 in cash he found on Clarks's person.

In deciding Clark's motion to suppress the $866, Judge Daniel M. Waldman and a two-judge Appellate panel both found no justification for Schuler's search of Clark and seizure of the cash.   

The only possible justification I can find for Schuler's warrantless search is if he patted Clark down to ensure his own personal safety, felt a bulge or protrusion and mistakenly believed it was a weapon.  But, it doesn't seem likely that $866 in cash, especially if it was in large denominations, would create enough of a bulge to warrant any further search.  Accordingly, we would like for the internal affairs unit to investigate the factual circumstances upon which Schuler based his decision to search and determine if it was reasonable.

If you find that Schuler's search was unreasonable and that he, despite having received adequate training and direction regarding warrantless searches, elected to ignore his training, we ask that you discipline him.  Otherwise, we ask that your department review and, if necessary, supplement your training requirements in this area of the law.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,
                      
John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party
Police Accountability Project
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ  08875-5424
Phone: 732-873-1251 - Fax: 908-325-0129
Email: paff@pobox.com

--Subsequent Action

April 5, 2013 - e-mail exchange with IA officer (here)
August 13, 2013 -  Letter advising that complaint was "not sustained." (here)