Recordings Capture Cops Discussing Department's Most Rotten Apple

from the thanks-for-the-convo,-but-what-are-you-doing-about-it? dept

Accountability begins at home. But nothing happens if no one’s willing to make the first step. Officers who witnessed another officer’s brutal act had plenty to say about it, but apparently not to anyone who mattered.

Recordings obtained through records requests by contain three hours of candid conversations between officers about the actions of Cataret, New Jersey police officer Joseph Reiman. Reiman is a military veteran and the mayor’s youngest brother. Officer Joseph Reiman is also responsible for 20% of the department’s force deployment.

From the time Joseph Reiman was hired in July 2015, the 50-person department logged 115 incidents in which an officer used force, such as a punch, baton or weapon against a suspect, according to documents obtained under the state Open Public Records Act.

Reiman, 31, the brother of longtime Mayor Daniel Reiman, accounted for 24 of the incidents, more than twice as many as any other officer.

The obtained recordings captured the reactions of officers responding to the scene of an arrest handled by Joseph Reiman. When they arrived, they were confronted with a 16-year-old suspect lying face down in gravel with “blood all over the fucking place.”

The officers, who have not been identified, remark that this disturbing situation is par for the course for Officer Reiman.

“I’ve been doing this less time than you but I’ve never punched anybody in the face like [inaudible]… never,” an officer says in the recording.

“That’s what I told Jerome last time,” another officer responds.

The fact that these complaints never made their way up the chain of command likely has to do with the other officer at the scene: Charles Reiman, another of the mayor’s brothers. As the officers leaving the scene point out, there’s zero chance anyone in the department would be willing to pursue a case against the mayor’s siblings.

The official narrative to explain the events, according to the officers, started at the scene and continued at headquarters: One recalls, “When I was there, they were like, ‘Well, he was in a car accident. He was in a car accident.’ I’m looking at this kid’s face, I’m like, “that ain’t a f—–g car accident… the whole side of his face has to be away from his skull and it’s like repeated… lump… lump… lump.”

Officer Charles Reiman, the middle Reiman brother who was the second on scene, had repeated, “He wouldn’t show his hands,” the same officer recalls.

“Charlie’s already, ya know, writing his thesis,” he says.

Another officer can be heard later in a separate recorded conversation,”They are going to blame it on the car accident… Nothin’s gonna happen. They’re gonna say nothing happen… he didn’t have his body camera on.”

The officer already knew Reiman’s body camera wasn’t on and questioned whether anyone’s recorded the incident.

“What do you want to bet… they’re all sitting around a table right now trying to get their f—–g story straight?” one officer asks after leaving the hospital.

And there it is: the legal defense for Reiman’s actions was in development before this second set of officers arrived on the scene. When it’s a cop’s word against a beaten 16-year-old, “he wouldn’t show his hands” tends to give officers permission to handle the situation with whatever level of force they want to, rather than what’s actually necessary.

Joseph Reiman is now under indictment for criminal assault. He’s still on the payroll while this advances through the judicial system. His history of excessive force is documented. Reiman is also a triple threat: writer, actor, and director of his own body cam footage.

[W]hile the Carteret police force is equipped with body cameras, videos that could tell the full story in some of Reiman’s encounters do not exist or have been withheld, and at least one was corrupted, according to NJ Advance Media’s investigation

Reiman’s actions have prompted some interesting reactions. The most ridiculous reaction is that of Reiman’s attorney.

Joseph Reiman’s attorney, Charles Sciarra, said in a statement Friday, referring to the police heard in the videos, that these “officers are known malingerers who slow roll to calls like they did on this one, and are cut from the same cloth as the officer in the Florida school shooting who stayed outside the building while those kids were slaughtered.”

Even if this were accurate, it would still be an incredibly shitty way to represent your client. It shows you’re no better than the person you’re representing — someone willing to toss slurs at cops who don’t regularly beat arrestees, and to portray appropriate force deployment as cowardice. But here’s the thing: Reiman’s attorney is making these accusations when he doesn’t even know for sure which officers were captured on the recordings.

Sciarra also called on NJ Advance Media to name the officers so the attorney could “review their pitiful arrest numbers and lack of law enforcement activity as well as their agenda.”

Reiman and his attorney deserve each other. Both have the mindset that efficient, brutal policing that steamrolls civilians’ rights is the best policing.

The other reaction is (comparatively) much better. A letter from the county prosecutor puts a new person in charge of internal investigations. This “extraordinary measure” was prompted by the department’s refusal to deal with mounting excessive force allegations — a great many of them tied to Reiman and his partner — and it’s apparent unwillingness to conduct required background checks on gun purchasers. As the letter notes, the Cataret PD has spent two years ignoring its background check duties.

The scathing letter sent by Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey to borough officials –which was obtained by NJ Advance Media Thursday but dated Monday — orders the recently hired Carteret police director, Kenneth Lebrato, to take over the department’s internal affairs unit for at least six months.


Carey described Lebrato as “uniquely well qualified” because of his experience in the prosecutor’s office.

Citing internal affairs issues in the letter, Carey calls current Carteret Deputy Chief Dennis McFadden, who is referred to as the chief in the borough’s news releases, “ineffective in executing his official duties.”

This may result in more attention being paid to the department’s bad apples. Unfortunately, the better apples are only talking to each other, rather than their supervisors or city officials. Then again, the system is rigged against police whistleblowers, who will not only be ostracized, but possibly deliberately placed in danger by their colleagues. In this case, the system is even worse because the two officers involved in the cover-up of this excessive force are related to the top man in town. These officers stated as much on video: no one in the department would be willing to go head-to-head with the mayor’s PD siblings.

So, the burden falls on the public. Investigative journalism has forced the system to address long-ignored problems. But this only goes so far, and it only works when journalists are able to apply consistent pressure via records requests (which often involves expensive lawsuits). Public servants are shirking their duties. Cops who have a duty to intervene are refusing to do so. The refusal to engage in internal accountability shifts an undue amount of the burden to private enterprises, who have to pay to perform oversight tasks that the public is paying PD officials to perform. The Cataret PD has been willing to house abusive cops for years, all on the taxpayers’ dime. Only now, after being exposed, is it seeking to address its multiple issues.

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Comments on “Recordings Capture Cops Discussing Department's Most Rotten Apple”

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Richard M (profile) says:

If you do not help get rid of bad cops you are a bad cop....

This is not an isolated thing. “Good” almost never do anything about the bad cops.

I was reading a report from the Civilian Review board for NYC sometime last year (so the report was probably for 2016).

I do not remember the exact percentages but I believe it was 80% of the cops did not have any excessive force complaints and I believe it was 84% of the complaints came from 7% of the cops (I could be off a percent or two).

So yes it really is a minority of the cops but until the cops that are not killing and beating the living crap out of suspects do something about the ones that are then they deserve to be called bad cops.

There is actually a very easy fix for the problem. Make all cops carry their own insurance. Give them all a raise to cover the average extra cost and have them buy their own insurance. The problem would be solve in a year or two at the most because cops that keep getting sued are not going to be insurable which means they will not be able to stay on any police force and have to go dig ditches or something.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Was a good cop, now a silent cop.

I think the problem is that good cops become unemployed cops, or not-team-player cops. I’ve known a few cases (all anecdotal) in which a police officer had to decide between raising a stink about a brother in blue, and earning the ire of the precinct, or not and not.

Given that being a police officer is a good gig, and not having a career is a really bad gig in the US, of course they’re going to choose the latter.

Zgaidin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Was a good cop, now a silent cop.

I don’t think anyone would argue the point that incentives are skewed into encouraging cops to keep their mouths shut about misbehavior by other cops. However, a perverse incentive system is not an excuse for an immoral decision.

Richard M is right. Even if you, personally, never beat the shit out of anyone, or kill anyone without good reason, or take a bribe, or plant evidence, or whatever – if you know other cops do and you keep your mouth shut, you are part of the problem, and a bad cop.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Was a good cop, now a silent cop.

Oh, I entirely agree with that assessment, and I think that police officers have to struggle with choosing between their personal moral integrity, and the safety of a secure job (which not only they rely on, but so does their family).

The thing is, this is a pretty common scenario in corporate America, in which good, moral accountants and marketers and product developers will discover the company they’ve worked for engages in questionable policies

For example, Coca-cola hires death squads to hunt down labor unionizers and any other troublemakers that might increase costs for their factories.

Most technology in the US are produced in China (mostly by Foxconn) which essentially employs slave labor and keeps them locked up in barracks. Suicide is such a high risk at the factories that they’ve had to add nets throughout the compound.

This sort of thing happens in a lot of big companies. A client of mine once was a woman who had to create a marketing campaign that suggested her company was going green and using renewable resources to make their products. It was entirely false, and the company actually was even avoiding modernizing their factories to reduce waste, but my client was a single mom, and her daughter depended on her for everything. She hated herself for it, but she developed the marketing campaign.

I bet there are a lot of ex-good-cops who hate themselves for not rocking the boat, but they love their families more than they can commit to being good.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Was a good cop, now a silent cop.

Many old buildings built in the pre-AC era have had their windows permanently sealed shut since air conditioning was installed and there was then no relevant reason to continue to have so many large opening windows throughout the building.

Many workplace suicides no doubt get classified as accidents, as it’s hard to know if a linesman, construction worker or refinery operator slipped and fell or intentionally jumped.

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Was a good cop, now a silent cop.

"Suicide is such a high risk at the factories that they’ve had to add nets throughout the compound."

This is to avoid bad publicity, not because there’s an excessive suicide problem. At first glance the raw numbers look horrific, but that’s because most people don’t understand the scale of these factories. As JoeCool said, the suicide rate in the Foxconn factory population is lower than the national average, and not by a small amount. But this is never clarified in the media stories about the issue because that would suggest the opposite of the narrative being pushed.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: Re: Was a good cop, now a silent cop.

Me, I’m wondering if this “talking about bad cops when the recording is on” is a way of establishing plausible deniability that they didn’t break the blue wall of silence. “I didn’t talk to internal affairs, I was just discussing the scene with my partner. I thought I had turned the body-cam/audio off…”

If that’s the case, I hope it catches on nationwide at least until good cops start standing up and naming names. It’s certainly better than no evidence at all.

cattress (profile) says:

Re: If you do not help get rid of bad cops you are a bad cop....

I was thinking the same thing about requiring cops to carry individual liability insurance! Insurance companies wouldn’t insure, or would charge a fortune to cover cops with any kind of training deficiency. Because how often do we hear how officers need de-escalation training, or how to deal with those with mental illness? And insurance companies would share information on officers in order to determine their premiums or if they are worth the risk to insure. Qualified immunity for cops would be over.
I really do love the idea, but I think the reality is that police and other public sector unions have too much power and the local laws giving them that power need to change. And if the police unions got disbanded (which they should, because the origination of police was to crack down on workers and unionization efforts and the police never actually suffered any sort of abuses or ill treatment from their private or government employers) then it may not be necessary to mandate insurance because bad cops would get fired and be accountable for their actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

"easy fix"

It’s worth noting that companies that employ armed security guards almost never hire them directly, but instead go through some 3rd party “bodyshop” company. This serves to protect the company’s asets from potentially huge civil judgements if someone ends up being wrongfully injured or killed. (using contracting firms also allows a company to fire “employees” at will without having to worry about fighting a wrongful-termination lawsuit, but that’s another can or worms to open another day)

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureucracy

With time in any institution, the the set of those who serve the function of the institution will dwindle and the set of those who serve the survival of the institution will expand.

In for-profit corporations, it means that ethical choices will give way for profitable ones. In a state institution, it creates a state within a state, or a deep state, in which the people within the institution serve only the best interests of those in the institution and regard those outside the institution as the enemy.

Not to be confused with the deep state that is the morass of permanent federal employees that make esoteric decisions like what color School-Bus Yellow is or how wide our federal highway lanes are.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Decay to Plutonium -- need some neutrons

Ah, yes. The correct answer to that is we don’t (yet) know.

Plenty of thinkers are trying to decipher this one. Our Constitutional framers seemed aware of it and felt that institutional decay was inevitable and (violent!) revolution was the only recourse for pruning and watering the tree of liberty.

So if you have ideas and can think through how to implement them, there’s several places to join the conversation.

anon says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Reboot: Decay to Plutonium -- need some neutrons

perhaps the answer is a reboot. agree on a base bare bones system an recognize everything will have to go back to square one at some point.

it probably wouldn’t work unless the reboot is done by the original creators to transition to the next group. even then some iteration of those in charge, as pournelle says, will find a way to ruin it, but perhaps it would be more robust and peaceful.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureucracy

With time in any institution, the set of those who serve the function of the institution will dwindle and the set of those who serve the survival of the institution will expand.

That is almost exactly what I’ve been trying to articulate for a while now. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

I guess I’m going to have to go to the library and find some Pournelle to read.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Enjoy that reputation, you earned it

And by refusing to do anything about the blatantly corrupt thugs in their midst, they are all no better than them.

Members of the public would be absolutely insane to trust any of them, because it’s crystal clear that while the majority probably wouldn’t bounce someone’s head off the pavement for laughs, they also won’t do anything about or to those that would.

So congrats NJPD, thanks to your cowardice and/or corruption you’re all no better than someone who’ll smash up a teen’s face for entertainment.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Public Accountability Credit Score

So is there a company maintaining a database of publicly viewable charges and reprimands of law enforcement officers? Like the ALPRs they think are such a good idea, and help identify criminals when they move to new areas?

We’ve become accustomed to the fact that these bad apples are not punished for violating the public trust, but even worse they tend to just pack up and get a job doing the same thing in a new town.

Anonymous Coward says:

he obviously expects to get away with doing whatever he wants, simply because of who he is! the frightening thing is, he probably will. even more frightening is that the officers discussing this will be found out and you can bet they WILL be punished, because of who he is! shit sticks to shit, especially when someone in the family is in a high position!!

trollificus (profile) says:

Yeah, it appears to be a really, really difficult problem that people just can’t wrap their minds around yet…but only because they are trying to solve the problem without pointing fingers at a sacred cow. Makes any solution much trickier.

As "Cattress", above, stated: "…the reality is that police and other public sector unions have too much power and the local laws giving them that power need to change." This reality also applies to the apparently-difficult-to-correct problem of Civil Asset Forfeiture, which, even when normally unenlightened state legislatures attempt to resolve it, owes its persistence to…yep, you guessed it, support from the police unions. I mean, it’s a policy that encourages theft from, and abuse of, the very citizens they are supposed to ‘serve and protect’, especially minorities, but gosh, we just can’t put our fingers on why it’s so hard to root it out.

For a perfect trifecta, it’s also a central source of resistance to the recalibration of marijuana policy. It benefits SOMEBODY to have otherwise-harmless people permanently marked as "felons". It benefits SOMEBODY to have non-violent customers of the prison industrial complex…but it sure as hell ain’t the citizenry.

Go ahead and pretend this behavior of this particular union is atypical of unions in general if you must, but none of this gets resolved without reform of police unions.

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