Friday, March 21, 2014

CLOSED: IA Complaint against Burlington Township Police Sergeant

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

March 21, 2014

Internal Affairs Unit
Burlington Township Police Department
851 Old York Rd
Burlington, NJ 08016
via e-mail only to kshoppas46@burltwppd.com

Dear Sir or Madam:

I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and ask that you accept this letter as our Internal Affairs complaint.  We would like your agency to investigate whether Sergeant David Brintzinghoffer (as well as any other officers and personnel employed by your agency) acted in accordance with department policy and the law regarding a July 5, 2006 incident involving Demetrius Cope.

According to the Appellate Division's March 21, 2014 decision in State v. Demetrius C. Cope, Docket No. A-2165-11T3 (on-line here), Sergeant Brintzinghoffer conducted an unconstitutional "protective sweep" of Cope's apartment that resulted in him finding a firearm in "plain view."  The Appellate Division ultimately ruled that the firearm is inadmissible because it was "discovered and seized as a result of a warrantless search that did not fall into any of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement." 

If Sergeant Brintzinghoffer, 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. 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

03/25/14 - Lt. James Sullivan acknowledged receipt of complaint. Click here.
08/15/17 - Left voicemail seeking case status.  Click here.
08/16/17 - Obtained copy of 05/19/14 letter exonerating officer, click here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Did Little Egg Harbor retaliate against an Internal Affairs complainant?

Update: May 22, 2014: I have since learned that the officer who issued Ricky Brown the traffic summons on February 28, 2014 is named Joel E. Mahr, Badge No. 1678.

March 19, 2014

Internal Affairs Unit
Little Egg Harbor Police Department
Attn: Detective Kenneth Schilling
665 Radio Rd
Little Egg Harbor, NJ 08087
via e-mail only to kschilling@lehpolice.com

Internal Affairs Unit
Ocean County Prosecutor's Office
Attn: Detective I.N. Bauman
119 Hooper Ave
Toms River, NJ, 08754
via e-mail to Internalaffairs@co.ocean.nj.us

Dear Detectives Schilling and Bauman:

As you are aware, I serve as the Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project and had filed a February 18, 2014 Internal Affairs (IA) Complaint (on-line here) against Little Egg Harbor Police Officer Christopher G. Costa regarding a February 18, 2014 incident involving Ricky Brown of 114 Jefferson Lane, Little Egg Harbor.  As you are also aware, I filed a subsequent, February 28, 2014 inquiry with the Ocean County Prosecutor (on-line here) after Mr. Brown told me that he had been stopped and ticketed by Little Egg Harbor Police immediately after he left the police station to follow up with Lieutenant Troy A. Bezak, to whom my IA complaint had been assigned.  A copy of the summons issued to Mr. Brown is on-line here.

In my February 28, 2014 letter, I expressed concern to the Prosecutor's Office about the timing of the traffic stop and suggested that it may have been in retaliation against Mr. Brown for reporting the February 18, 2014 incident to me.  In its March 7, 2014 letter (on-line here), the Prosecutor's Office acknowledged my letter and advised me that the Little Egg Harbor Police Department would continue to handle the IA investigation.

Unbeknownst to the officer who issued Mr. Brown the summons on February 28, 2014 is that Brown had audio-recorded his conversation with that officer during the traffic stop.  A .wav file of the relevant portion of that conversation is on-line here.  About fifteen seconds into the recording, the officer disclosed that he knew that the purpose of Mr. Brown's visit to the police station was to "talk to Lieutenant Bezak."

I have spoken with both Mr. Brown and his house-mate Kim and none of us can understand how the ticketing officer would have known that Mr. Brown's visit to the police station involved Lieutenant Bezak unless that officer had been previously told by someone within the police department of the purpose of Mr. Brown's visit.  The fact that the ticketing officer volunteered Lieutenant Bezak's name during the traffic stop strongly suggests that my original concern that the traffic stop was retaliatory is valid.

In order to insure an impartial investigation, I ask that the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office a) take over the original investigation.  I also ask that the Prosecutor's office accept this correspondence as my request for a new IA investigation against the ticketing police officer, known to me only as Badge No. 1678, for conducting a traffic stop and issuing a traffic summons against a citizen in retaliation for causing an IA complaint to be filed.

Please confirm your receipt of this correspondence.

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

05/16/14 - On May 16, 2014, I was informed by Township Attorney Robin LaBue that I was not considered the official "complainant" in the matter raised by my March 19, 2014 e-mail which complained about the Officer Joel E. Mahr issuing a summons against Ricky Brown in retaliation for him having contacted me on February 18, 2014.  Since I was not considered the "complainant," Ms. LaBue reasoned that I was not eligible to receive a copy of the letter announcing the result of the investigation into Mahr's actions.  LaBue's May 16, 2014 letter is on-line here.

05/16/14 - In response to my February 18, 2014 IA complaint, Sgt. James Hawkins determined on May 16, 2014 that there was "not enough evidence to support [my] complaint of harassment." But, he cryptically informed me that "during the investigation we became aware of a condition for which the department has since taken appropriate action to correct.  Hawkins' May 16, 2014 letter is on-line here.