Internal Affairs Divisions Dismissing 99% Of Misconduct Cases Against New Jersey Police Officers

from the another-argument-for-recording-officers-during-arrests dept

Not all cops are bad, but the insulation from accountability begins with the departments themselves, which often go out of their way to defend the actions of abusive officers. In some cases, pressure from police unions has kept unruly officers on the job despite the departments’ efforts to remove them. Other times, the insulating force is also the first line of officer accountability: Internal Affairs. Often depicted as a hated entity within the force, the Internal Affairs division is supposed to be the public’s first line of defense against cops who abuse their power. As documents obtained by the Courier News and Home News Tribune show, dozens of complaints against central New Jersey police officers are dismissed every year without ever making it past these departments’ internal review mechanisms.

From 2008 to 2012, citizens filed hundreds of complaints alleging brutality, bias and civil rights violations by officers in more than seven dozen police departments in Central Jersey…

Just 1 percent of all excessive force complaints were sustained by internal affairs units in Central Jersey, the review found. That’s less than the national average of 8 percent, according to a federal Bureau of Justice Statistics report released in 2007.

Elizabeth, for example, processed 203 such complaints in the five-year period and not once sided with a complainant. Woodbridge had 84 complaints, New Brunswick had 81, Perth Amboy had 50 and Linden had 33. In all those cases, these agencies either “exonerated” the officers, dismissed the complaints as frivolous, determined that they did not have sufficient evidence or simply never closed the investigations.

Nationwide numbers aren’t all that encouraging, with only 8% of complaints being sustained, but the New Jersey police departments are pitching near shutouts. These numbers can be taken to mean that either these departments only staff exemplary officers — or that many cases boil down to not much more than the complainant’s word against the officer’s, something that rarely goes the complainant’s way.

On a positive note, the journalists were able to compile the numbers thanks to New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act which requires police departments to tally and track complaints, including how each case is disposed. On the downside, almost all information related to the officers involved is redacted.

Except in race cases, complaints against officers and how officers were disciplined — which can range from spoken or written reprimands to suspensions or termination — are kept confidential.

The tallies of complaints and how they were disposed are public records, as are use of force reports, which officers are required to file whenever they use bodily force or weapons to subdue a suspect. The public also has the right to read synopses of all complaints where a fine or suspension of at least 10 days was assessed. But the identities of officers, as well as the complainants, have to be redacted from these documents.

As Sergio Bachao of My Central Jersey points out, this provides public officers with more protection than it does private citizens. Complaints and disciplinary rulings against licensed professionals in the private sector are posted by the state using these citizens’ full names. Obviously, doing so makes these professionals more accountable and provides other members of the public with info they can use to avoid potential scams, etc.

The redactions work the opposite way in these public records, protecting those who have been accused of wrongdoing. It’s often not until a case has finally made its way to the courtroom that these officers’ “rap sheets” are exposed. And in most cases, officers accused of deploying excessive force or abusing their power will be serial violators — something that would have been noticed earlier if not for these redactions.

In the wake of the Deloatch investigation, then-Sgt. Richard Rowe was charged with mishandling 81 internal affairs in New Brunswick from 2003 to 2007. He was sentenced in August to two years of probation. The Home News Tribune also reported that Berdel had been investigated at least seven times by internal affairs, including once for an excessive force complaint. The complaints either were not sustained or never resolved.

One NJ assemblyman thinks he has a solution.

Assemblyman Peter Barnes III, D-Middlesex, said that all internal affairs investigations should be handled by county prosecutors or the state Attorney General’s Office.

“It’s long since past the day where you can say with a straight face that it’s OK to have officers investigate their own. It just isn’t a good system,” Barnes said.

Barnes has a bit too much confidence that prosecutors and state AGs will be a more “neutral” force than Internal Affairs. These entities operate in concert with police officers to prosecute accused wrongdoers. The close relationships with police departments are often hard to disentangle when an officer is facing potential criminal charges. It’s not unheard of for misconduct cases to finally reach the AG level only to find the AG unwilling to pursue charges.

AGs and prosecutors often believe they’re in the business of “fighting crime” (some even run for election using a “tough on crime” platform) when in reality they’re only part of a system aimed at providing justice. Because of this misconception, prosecutors and AGs consider police officers to be allies in the war on crime and tend to be rather lenient when charged with prosecuting officer misconduct.

There’s probably no perfect solution for this problem but some extra steps could mitigate a lot of these concerns. To be sure, there are a large number of complaints that fall into the “frivolous” category, meaning the percentage of misconduct cases that result in any sort of disciplinary action will still remain rather low. But requiring some sort of independent oversight would be a start. As it stands now, an internal division reviews these cases and, should it believe criminal charges might be in order, it forwards them to state AGs and prosecutors — who are often as reluctant to pursue charges as the department itself.

Another suggestion would be the use of body cameras by police officers. Although officers and police departments still retain some control over the footage collected, early use has indicated that they tend to reduce complaints of misconduct or excessive force. Citizens are less likely to file frivolous complaints knowing there’s footage of the incident, and officers are less likely to deploy excessive force for the same reason.

At this point though, with only 1% of complaints being sustained, citizens have very little reason to believe the system will hold bad cops accountable. Likewise, bad cops can look to the 99% “clearance rate” as an indicator that their bad behavior will go unpunished, if not unnoticed.

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Comments on “Internal Affairs Divisions Dismissing 99% Of Misconduct Cases Against New Jersey Police Officers”

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61 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Not all cops are bad!

no one is perfect – yet it seems society should do more take the effort to bring to the attention certain matters that aren’t appropriate. I believe cops are people and as I know about myself I have plenty of character defects. My concern is when cops do something wrong and do to who knows lack of action by whom or maybe its political. we as the people need to realize at the moment of incident you aren’t physically affected – think somehow as a whole it could possibly be questioning human rights

Omar says:

Re: Re: Not all cops are bad!

99.9% of cops are corrupt to the core and I ain’t looking no other way to say they ain’t, their bribed, paid off to keep criminality going and to enrich the “private-for-profiting” corporations with wealth beyond their wildest dreams. I know this for a fact cause my boy is a cop and boy do he have some secret stories to tell how corrupt the police force around the world is! As he state out of his own mouth, it is a “secret fraternal order” made for them and by them…Whoa!

Anonymous Coward says:

Part of the problem

is this auto-defense of police officers. People who voluntarily went out of their way to seek power over other people, and have then abused that power. Sorry but when the majority of the force is corrupt and you seek position within their ranks, you too are then part of the problem. There are no good cops, as those who are good people find better ways of actually serving their communities and neighborhoods.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Part of the problem

I find it offensive when because in uniform some have attitudes better than thou. I agree society needs to acknowledge or not just chit chat. as a whole I have read whats being said/felt – and I think most people are entitled to opinion. yet when you do its important to explain in detail why the actual experience causing this and since such a page exists hopefully it is being looked at by someone with balls and in a legal position to take action.

Christopher (profile) says:

Pretty happy with that number.

99% of the cases filed are bullshit, so I’m not surprised they clear them that way. I just don’t understand the desire to hamstring and cripple police work here. Officers aren’t responding to filesharing emergencies, but real physical harm. The unreasonable expectation that they gently separate two combatants is ridiculous, but it seems that’s the desire. When we get zero-point energy and force-fields, great, you can have that. Until then, arm officers with compliance-through-force and set the expectation that once an officer arrives on scene, compliance is not optional.

-C

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Pretty happy with that number.

I just don’t understand the desire to hamstring and cripple police work here.

It’s not hard to understand. Cops routinely abuse the powers they’re given and harm innocent citizens or act as judges against suspects. The cops who don’t engage in that sort of abuse cover for the ones that do.

If a group of people abuse their power, then they shouldn’t be entrusted with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pretty happy with that number.

bull shit tell me one thats good. The cops who don’t engage in that sort of abuse cover for the ones that do. yeah ok your just as stupids as the cops doing the bullshit. Its happening all over our country, PIGS abusing there power period……they need to fire every cop in the united states and start over, and then dont give them all the authority we give them, i would take away so they cant abuse us nomore

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Pretty happy with that number.

Another CA Cop Thinks A Cell Phone Might Be A Dangerous Weapon
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Cop Caught Slamming Cyclist To The Ground On YouTube Indicted
Cop Shoots Cuffed Teen In The Face With A Taser, Claims He ‘Feared For His Safety’
Cops And Schools Collide Again: School Fight Ends With Tased Teen In Medically-Induced Coma
Cops And Union Rep Lie About What Video Shows Because Judge Never Allowed Recording As Evidence
Court Says Police In Ohio Can Just Guess How Fast You Were Going And Give You A Ticket
Dallas Police Rule Change Gives Officers 72 Hours To Get Their Stories Straight After Shooting Citizens
Do A Little Dance, Make A Little Love…Get Bodyslammed Tonight (At The Jefferson Memorial)
Documents Show LA Sheriff’s Department Hired Thieves, Statutory Rapists And Bad Cops
Ex-FBI Agent, Trauma Surgeon Testify That Kelly Thomas’ Death Was A Result Of Officers’ Excessive Force
Falsely Arrested Woman Told She Should Thank The Police For Realizing Their Error
Forget Being Arrested For Filming The Police, Now They’re Arresting People For Sitting
Fullerton Police ‘Use Of Force’ Trainer Says No Policies Violated During Beating Death Of Kelly Thomas
Guy Arrested, Threatened With 15 Years For Recording Traffic Stop In Illinois
If You’re Going To Illegally Seize Citizens’ Cell Phones, At Least Make Sure You’re Grabbing The Right Ones
Illinois Prosecutors Planning To Appeal Ruling That Said Recording Police Is Protected By The First Amendment
Internal Investigation Into Pursuit And Shooting Results In The Suspension Of 63 Cleveland Police Officers
Kansas City Cops Tell Man They’ll Kill His Dogs And Destroy His Home If Forced To Obtain A Search Warrant
Lancaster Cops Still Unclear On Public’s Right To Record; Harass Same Citizen Who Recorded Them Last Week
LAPD Detains A Photographer For ‘Interfering’ With A Police Investigation… From 90 Feet Away
Lawyer For Cop Charged In Beating Death Of Homeless Man Claims Officer Didn’t Use ENOUGH Force
Man Facing 75 Years In Jail For Recording The Police; Illinois Assistant AG Says No Right To Record Police
Man Made Famous Over 2006 Arrest For Videotaping Police… Arrested Again While Videotaping Police
Man Stopped By Cops For Supposedly Voluntary NHTSA ‘Survey’ Sues City And Police Dept. For Violating His 4th Amendment Rights
Man Who Raped 14-Year-Old Sentenced To 30 Days In Jail Because Girl Looked Kinda Old And The Internet Is Mean
Maryland Police Confiscate Biker’s Computers After He Catches Questionable Activity On Helmet Cam
Miami Beach Police Tried To Destroy Video From Bystanders, Holding Them At Gunpoint
Miami Gardens Police Arrest Store Employee 62 Times For Trespassing At His Place Of Employment
NJ State Trooper Feels The Best Part About The Required Dashcam Is The OFF Button
NYPD Put Couple On ‘Wanted’ Poster For Videotaping Police
Off-Duty NYC Cops Watched, Participated In Assault Of SUV Driver By Enraged Bikers
Oklahoma Cops Think Falling Glitter Might Be A Biochemical Attack, Book Protesters On ‘Terrorist Hoax’ Charges When It Isn’t
One Day After DC Police Told Not To Interfere With Citizens Recording Them… Police Seize Man’s Phone
PA Cop Refuses To Take Accident Report Unless Citizen Stops Recording; Cites ‘Department Policy’
Philly Police Harass, Threaten To Shoot Man Legally Carrying Gun; Then Charge Him With Disorderly Conduct For Recording Them
Police Arrest Woman For Filming Them, Take Phone Out Of Her Bra, Claim That It Must Be Kept As ‘Evidence’
Police Caught Tasing Teen Without Warning
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Police Send SWAT Team, Break Into Wrong House (With TV Film Crew) In Response To Internet Troll
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Police Ticketing Informal Rideshare Participants Based On No Law, But To Protect Port Authority Revenue
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Police Use HIPAA To Justify Charging Citizen For Recording Them
Police Who Seized Woman’s Phone As ‘Evidence’ Of Bogus Crime Now Complaining About Criticism
Police, Yet Again, Arrest Someone For Filming Them, Saying It’s Obstruction Of Justice
Renton Police Shopped Around Until They Found A Prosecutor Who Would Go After Anonymous Critic
San Diego Cop Thinks You Might Have Turned Your Cell Phone Into A Gun And That ‘Officer Safety’ Trumps Constitutional Rights
Student Arrested And Charged With ‘Terrorizing’ For Shooting Classmates… With An iPhone App
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Woman Charged With ‘Obstructing Governmental Administration’ For Filming Police From Her Front Yard
Worse Than The Disease: Law Enforcement Officers Committing Sexual Violence In The Line Of Duty
Yet Another Story Of A Guy Arrested For Filming Police
Zero Tolerance Policies Put Students In The Hands Of Bad Cops

Geno0wl (profile) says:

We wish we could have body cams

The truth is that the last THREE police chiefs we have had all asked about body cams. But it just isn’t really feasable for us.
-Cost of the cameras
-Ability of the network

Those two items are just a HUGE hindrance.
We already push our network as hard as we can with our RMS suite and in car camera feeds.
I mean body cams are just a lot of data.
My department wants body cams, but there are too many financial hurdles to them for us at this point.

And to Chris…compliance is only optional for a “reasonable” thing. If there is a situation that needs sorting then yeah, compliance is great.
If I am sitting on my porch drinking and you want to step up onto my property or come into MY house, sorry but you can sod off.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: We wish we could have body cams

You just need to pass it off as ‘Anti-terrorism’ tech somehow, then the government will be almost literally throwing money your way to upgrade the needed systems and buy the needed gear.

And to Chris…compliance is only optional for a “reasonable” thing. If there is a situation that needs sorting then yeah, compliance is great.

You’re talking to someone who thinks a punch to the face is a reasonable response to someone ‘resisting arrest’, his definition of ‘reasonable’ and yours are likely very different.

Still, nice to hear about a police department actually wanting body-cams, that on it’s own suggests that your lot at least wouldn’t ‘need’ them except very rarely.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

Re: Re: We wish we could have body cams

except that is a massive amount of data. Also a large amount of it that you wouldn’t want to either “go missing” or to get corrupted.
And for a large PD like we have, we have 6 different buildings across the city where patrol men go out of. We are not some rinky dink local PD.
Which means either building extra servers at EVERY location to store that large data, or stress the network to push all that data out to our main tech house.
And as mentioned we are a large department, so the network is already being constantly used by reports and other evidence files being passed back and forth for investigators or others.
The solution is not as straight forward or easy as some people jump to.

Not to even mention that our MVRs are already almost 10 years old and need to be replaced first. Which we need to upgrade server infrastructure for. ect ect.

Jay (profile) says:

A suggestion...

I would think a public commission that works outside of the police force would help alleviate some of the issues as well as a community outreach which the public controls in some way. Not the government, I mean the citizens who are being told that the police are doing a great job to dismiss complaints.

That’s two ways that the community could be given more power over the police which would work to review the complaints and have more dominion over recommendations than a prosecutor who works closely with the police every day.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

The problem with the Internal Affairs departments within law enforcement agencies is not that they investigate police but rather the real problem is that their investigators are actual police officers.

The Internal Affairs departments within these police departments needs to be a civilian agency, independent of the police department staffed with employees who are affiliated with any law enforcement organization, have never been employed by any police department and who answer directly to the District Attorney’s Office, because they are who would prosecute the case in the first place.

It’s inappropriate for any police department to investigate its own officers in the first place, THIS is why there is such a problem with a police department’s IA division. You don’t allow someone suspected of a murder to be in charge of his own murder investigation so you should not have police officers investigating their own police officers.

The IA division of any police department is a joke and results to nothing more than a slap on the wrist and a promise to the police officer to never do it again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Elect them

My solution that will never be adopted:

Anyone who is authorized to use force against the citizens has to be elected by said citizens. Or at the very least ratified, and on a regular basis.

Most of the time it would be a rubber stamp, but if a particular officer got a reputation there would be a way to bounce him that wouldn’t require a bureaucracy to take positive action. Even if nobody ever got bounced from the force by the voters it would stick in the back of their minds that they could be out of a job and there would be nothing their cronies could do to cover for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Elect them

No, but in this case it’s not a “lesser of two evils” like too many regular election; it’s a ratification. Is this person of suitable character to be allowed to point a gun at unarmed persons? If someone gets a bad rep people can remember that and put him on the street.

And let me ask, since you don’t like the idea of electing people, what do you prefer? Perhaps having all officials appointed by hereditary monarch and representative thereof?

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Since September 11th, law enforcement has become more like Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s than the police officers they are supposed to be. They think that just because they wear a badge and carry a gun that they have the right to abuse our constitutional rights and treat us like second class citizens.

I’m telling everyone that this situation is getting out of hand.

What do I think is going to happen? I think that between the government and the police, that people in this country are going to get to a point where they finally get fed up with the crap and they’re just going to say “enough is enough” and you’re going to have a nationwide riot that will make the revolutionary war seem like a quiet Sunday afternoon.

This country is heading for an uprising so vast that it’s going to throw this country into complete chaos and nobody will be able to back up a step and say “wait a minute, time out”.

Because of the DoJ, NSA, FISA, Obama Administration, The Police and Congress, they have created a problem so insurmountable that it’s going to have serious consequences and I think those consequences are going to rear their head very soon.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Since September 11th, law enforcement has become more like Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s than the police officers they are supposed to be.

This started a long, long time before 9/11. The camel’s nose was SWAT teams, introducing the notion of paramilitary force into the sphere of police work. The rest of the camel swiftly followed to the point that now the police unapologetically act as a paramilitary force.

That is how policing died in the US, to be replaced with what amounts to a domestic military force.

ellie says:

Re: Re:

in English parlance when you have the hump it means you have made a right twat of yourself. Having 2 humps you are so well balanced you have a chip (hump) on each shoulder maybe you are too busy spending your daddies money chatting shit about poor camels……….
If you want anarchy sod off to Yemen
Oiks like you need to jog on as the serious and brave police force have always had guns and I reckon they have a couple spare for you.
You can’t handle the truth
And may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpit

Anonymous Coward says:

Geography

Normally I don’t bother to correct this kind of thing but the block quotation repeatedly says “Central Jersey” then talks about Elizabeth, Linden, Perth, and Woodbrige. None of these places are considered Central Jersey by anyone who has lived there. Check a map. The arguement can be made for New Brunswick but thats where we draw the line.

Anonymous Coward says:

There are so many of these in Florida that it is almost impossible to pick one that stands out as particularly egregious and which was ultimately decided by internal and external investigations to have been justified. Somehow, surrounding a suspect out in the open and firing over 100 shots, 68 of which found their mark, strikes me as police overreaction and user of far, far, far beyond excessive and deadly force. The victim was by no means a saint, but then again neither were the police officers who used the victim as target practice. See:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/10/01/florida-police-shot-suspected-cop-killer-68-times/

Dawn Petricevich says:

REALLY

approximately November 2nd 2014.,to Woodbridge cops names are unknownone was an Asian American and his partner was a white American. They allowed my heroin addict brother come into my mother’s apartment and watched him steal not only my DVDs without any receipts or claiming that he had received for they were his or he can even sound them off or tell them which ones they were.then he went into my mother’s closet and stole all my CDs. So being a former police officer there are accessories to a felony. It says on their cars to serve and protect it should say to bully and do what we want. I video tape the whole thing. The cops were nasty to me not knowing the situation that I’m in. If nothing gets done I will take the video to any news association that will listen and look at my video. I don’t appreciate them just letting him come in steal all my DVDs and my CDs when he wasn’t even supposed to be on the property and or in my mother’s apartment which I explained to them they wouldn’t even let me show them the paperwork. I am so disgusted with the Woodbridge Police Department and if any of these older cops that knew me growing up and no my brother growing up or even if you ran my brothers background or ran my background I guarantee he’s been convicted more times then probably anybody in Woodbridge. he’s got at least 13 charges of domestic violence 5 charges of drug violations and paraphernalia and God only knows what else. That’s why I have a final restraining order against him and I got one for my mother because my brother was beaten my mother up. The Woodbridge cops did nothing about it I had to do something about it the night he was about to strike my mother I stepped in the way and he hit me. those gentlemen as I mean the police officers did their job that night. It’s great to see officers doing their job correctly not standing by watching somebody commit a felony. I’m not afraid of any of you cops.NONE of you. I am embarrassed to say that I live in Woodbridge and the Woodbridge Police Department absolutely disgust me. They don’t do real work why don’t you try doing the work that I used to do. You wouldn’t be able to handle it none of you . I’m not saying all the Woodbridge police are not doing their job. I really think though you need to realize when it comes to certain situations you need to realize when to use your ethics and why you were there that night instead of distract me of something else why my drug addict brother is stealing stuff from my mother’s apartment well where does that come in great job guys great job. I don’t understand maybe somebody can help me?

Dawn Petricevich says:

Oh my God

I’m looking at all of these complaints on all of these police officers or cops or sheriffs. When I was a sheriff’s deputy and I also work for Nevada state corrections. I never disrespected anyone that I needed to talk to or pullover. There is nothing better as a police officer or as a cop or as a sheriff’s deputy to at least take some time and ask people questions because that’s what you’re supposed to do you know I’m just supposed to just write a ticket see you later have a nice day. Some people might be having a bad day you’re there to protect and serve you’re also there listen to the public because that’s what you’re paid to do maybe you can get under neath why they’re doing what they’re doing personally I think half the police officers are cops or sheriff or whoever these complaints are you’ll need to find another job because your fucking suck at it

Joe K says:

Bad cops?

If you want to see a brutal police force, visit Brazil. If you have complaints about our police you are obviously someone that doesn’t live their life as a productive member of society. Don’t break the law and you won’t get hurt. Cooperate with Police authority and seek self justice through the proper channel and not aggressively in the face of an individual that deals with the stress of possibly not seeing his or her family again each day.

Kim Kassey (user link) says:

A lot of Cops are Bad, Most Threaten Anyone Who would Report Them

See much abuse, police misconduct and brutality. Not just them.
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Human-Rights-in-US-and-New-Jersey-891909364262289/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
NJ Against Chris Christie, visitor posts:
https://www.facebook.com/NjgainstCC/
WebSite on Abuse and Violations (Please don’t moderate, need 1st amendment free speech and press):
http://kimkassynj.zohosites.com/

Vincent says:

Woodbridge Police Misconduct.

The Woodbridge Police, are some of the most corrupt cops in New Jersey, I have a repair shop in Woodbridge NJ, every time a customer or an insurance company does not like to pay our fees, they call the Woodbridge Police, and they take the complaint on a civil matter and try to turn it into a criminal matter. The detective named Brian even subpoenaed my landlord to see how we pay our rent, and told my landlord not to say anything to us, because he knows he is doing wrong. We put a complaint in with Lt, Eng from Internals Affairs. Please don’t waste your time with him, it will go no where. Do not open a business in Woodbridge NJ unless you like Police harassment.

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