Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CLOSED: IA Complaint against Warren Township Police Officer

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

April 29, 2014

Russell W. Leffert, Chief
Warren Township Police Department
44 Mountain Boulevard
Warren, NJ 07059
via e-mail only to rleffert@warrenpolice.com

Dear Chief Leffert:

I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and ask that you accept this e-mail as our Internal Affairs complaint.  I am forwarding this complaint to you, as Chief of Police, because there is nothing on your web site identifying the person within your Department to whom an Internal Affairs complaint should be directed.

We would like your agency to investigate whether Officer Robert Ferreiro (as well as any other officers and personnel employed by your agency) acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a June 10, 2010 motor vehicle stop and subsequent warrantless search of a vehicle driven by Troy Henderson.

According to the Appellate Division's March 21, 2014 decision in State v. Troy Henderson, Docket No. A-0032-13T4 (on-line here) which affirmed Judge John H. Pursel's July 18, 2013 order and opinion (on-line here), Ferreiro stopped Henderson's vehicle for tinted windows (according to Judge Pursel, it "was later determined that the windows did not have an illegal tint), a quickly learned that he was operating with a suspended license and did not have an insurance card.  He ultimately found six bricks (three hundred decks) of heroin inside a set of workman's gloves found after a warrantless search.

Judge Pursel granted Henderson's motion to suppress the heroin and noted the following:

1. Despite Ferreiro's claim that Henderson appeared "excessively nervous," Judge Pursel, who watched the audio/video recording of the stop taken by Ferreiro's patrol car dash camera, found to the contrary.

2. Ferreiro claimed that he suspected Henderson because a set of gloves he had seen on the passenger seat the first time he looked in the car window were "moved to an unknown location" by the second time he looked in the window.  Judge Pursel noted that this discrepancy concerning the gloves was not mentioned by Ferreiro during the stop as recorded on the dash cam.

3. Even had the gloves been moved and Henderson was excessively nervous, those two factors would not have justified either asking Henderson for consent to search the vehicle or prolonging the vehicle stop so that a drug dog could sniff the vehicle.  As the Appellate Division noted, Ferreiro's suspicion that Henderson had drugs in the car "was nothing more than a hunch."

If Officer Ferreiro, despite having received adequate training and direction regarding when and how to conduct warrantless searches elected to ignore his training, we ask that you discipline him. Similarly, we request that if your investigation reveals that he fabricated the "nervousness" and the issue of the moved gloves, that you also discipline him.  Otherwise, we ask that your department review and 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

05/01/14 - Chief Leffert acknowledged receipt of complaint. Click here.
05/29/14 - Complaint not sustained.  Click here.