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Open Government Advocacy Project:
Perfunctory, uninformative dismissal of Internal Affairs complaint
 

Issue Detail:

 
On May 19, 2011, the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project filed an Internal Affairs Complaint against State Trooper Scott Sanders. The complaint was based on a decision of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division in which a two judge panel found that Sanders conducted an improper, warrantless search of a motor vehicle. The court's decision caused suppression of "five dime bags of high grade marijuana, approximately a half ounce of cocaine, seven bricks of heroin, and five sealed blunts containing tobacco." Because of evidence the suppressed, the conviction and the six year prison sentence against the driver was reversed. Despite the fact that the search was deemed by an appellate court to have been illegal and resulted in a violation of a person's Fourth Amendment rights (not to mention the money--both public and private--wasted on the arrest, prosecution and defense), State Police Captain Jeffrey Gale, in a June 3, 2011 letter, perfunctorily informed the NJLP that his office had "determined that the trooper did not violate any of the New Jersey State Police Standard Operating Procedures, Rules or Regulations, or laws of the State of New Jersey." The NJLP's complaint, the Appellate Division's decision and Captain Gale's dismissal letter are on line here. Page 11-52 of the New Jersey Attorney General's "Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures" Manual (http://www.nj.gov/lps/dcj/agguide/internalaffairs2000v1_2.pdf) states that "citizen confidence in the integrity of the law enforcement agency increases through the establishment of meaningful and effective complaint procedures. This confidence engenders community support for the law enforcement agency." Yet, it is understandably hard for the public to have any confidence in the integrity of this particular investigation and dismissal. Are we to believe that the State Police have no rules against State Troopers conducting unconstitutional searches? Or, are we to believe that such rules do exists but that Trooper Sanders, despite the Appellate Division's ruling, did not violate them? The same page of the Manual also states that "the internal affairs process shall also be used to identify and correct unclear or inappropriate agency procedures. In addition it will highlight organizational conditions that may contribute to any misconduct, such as poor recruitment and selection procedures or inadequate training and supervision of officers." Indeed, the NJLP's letter of complaint specifically asked the State Police to "determine if there were training or policy failures within your agency." If Captain Gale did make this determination, he certainly did not share it with us. Based on this case, the public has no evidence upon which to conclude that the Division of State Police has a meaningful and effective internal affairs procedure. John Paff, Chairman New Jersey Libertarian Party's Police Accountability Project paff@pobox.com June 14, 2011

 

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