Thursday, June 27, 2013

Letter to Neptune Township Committeewoman regarding Police IA exoneration

June 27, 2013

Mary Beth Jahn, Committeewoman
Township of Neptune
25 Neptune Blvd
Neptune, NJ  (via e-mail to mjahn@neptunetownship.org)

RE: Neptune Police Department Internal Affairs Procedure

Dear Committeewoman Jahn:

I invite your attention to our blog entry entitled "CLOSED: Internal Affairs Complaint - Neptune Township" which is on-line here.

As you will see, the blog post contains our Internal Affairs Complaint against Neptune Police Lieutenant Robert Mangold with a link to the Internal Affairs Unit's June 24, 2013 letter which exonerated Mangold. From a careful reading of the complaint, the court opinion upon which our complaint was based and the IA Unit's response, it appears that: a) Mangold directed a subordinate officer to conduct a warrantless strip-search of an arrestee; b) two courts, finding that the strip-search was illegal, suppressed the evidence that was the fruit of the search and c) neither Mangold's nor the subordinate officer's actions violated any departmental rules, procedures or other standard.

While we appreciate the Police Department's responsiveness to our complaint, we can't help but be concerned that these officers could violate the constitution and N.J.S.A. 2A:161A-1 without running afoul of any departmental rules and regulations.  This would suggest that police rules and regulations regarding warrantless searches 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 Neptune Township Committee 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 Neptune'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 copied Township Clerk Richard Cuttrell on this correspondence both to keep him 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 October 8, 2011, the date that Daniel Dolan was strip-searched. (I refer to the records that the Internal Affairs Unit reviewed when it determined that the Neptune officers 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. Richard Cuttrell
via e-mail to rcuttrell@neptunetownship.org

--Subsequent action

07/09/13 - Township responded to OPRA request. Click here for response and departmental policies.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jersey City IA justifies its "administrative dismissal"

On June 6, 2013, I questioned why the Jersey City Police Internal Affair Unit "administratively dismissed" my Internal Affairs complaint instead of deciding it on its merits.  My June 6, 2013 letter and background on the matter is here.

The Unit responded with a June 17, 2013 letter, which is on-line here.  It was explained that "[t]o not sustain or exonerate the officer . . . would be dismissive and insulting to [me] and [my] efforts [while sustaining the complaint] would vilify the efforts put forth by the officers in the street and diminish their efforts to keeping the citizens of Jersey City safe."

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
               

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jersey City "administratively closes" IA complaint

I wrote the following e-mail to the Jersey City Police Department's IA Unit today, in reference to IAU Case File #: 2012-106 (Sergeant Edward Nestor, Sergeant Keith Ludwig and Detective Terrence Doran)

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

June 6, 2013

Louis Siranides, Internal Affairs Unit
Jersey City Police Department
1 Journal Square Plaza
Jersey City, NJ 07306
(via e-mail to lsiranides@njjcps.org)

Dear Captain Siranides:

I am in receipt of your May 23, 2013 letter, a copy of which is on-line here.  (Also, for your ready reference, my June 16, 2011 Internal Affairs Complaint and the Appellate Division decision upon which it was based are here and here.
 Would you please explain to me why the complaint was "administratively closed" instead of being disposed of by an "exonerated,"  "sustained," "not sustained" or "unfounded" finding, as suggested by General Order # 2-12?  The only reference I can find to an "administrative dismissal" is on the 116th page of the Attorney General's Internal Affairs Guidelines (on-line here).  According to the Guidelines, complaints should be "administratively dismissed" only when a disposition on the merits cannot be reached, such as when the "subject officer terminates his or her employment prior to disposition of the complaint."

Please advise.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


John Paff

-- Subsequent Action

06/07/13 Resubmitted e-mail via fax (click here)
06/17/13 Response received (click here)



CLOSED: Two Newark police officers exonerated for warrantless search

On June 28, 2011, I filed an Internal Affairs complaint with the Newark Police Department against Officers Javier Rivera and Jimmy Rios.  My complaint is on-line here and the Appellate Division decision underlying the complaint is on-line here.  In essence, the Appellate Division had found that Rios and Rivera had made an improper, warrantless entry into a residence to make a drug possession arrest.

By letter dated May 3, 2013, on-line here, Lieutenant Antonio Domingues reported that after a complete investigation, the officers' conduct was deemed "legal and proper."  Accordingly, the officers were exonerated.