Police and Fire

Investigation Into July 5 Alleged Racial Profiling by Maplewood PD Continues—on the Local Level

Although the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has completed its investigation into alleged racial profiling by the Maplewood Police in April — stating there was “insufficient credible evidence to warrant a prosecution” of Police Chief Robert Cimino and Capt. Joshua Cummis — a portion of the investigation is ongoing on the local level, according to Maplewood Township counsel.

The ECPO referred a portion of the matter back to the Maplewood Police Department for an Internal Affairs investigation and that investigation is ongoing, said Township counsel.

Village Green learned of the ongoing investigation when we renewed our Open Public Records Act request for audio and police reports from the July 5 post-fireworks incidents that spurred the investigations. With a local internal affairs investigation in the works, no documents will be released until that investigation is complete.

On April 4, Maplewood Township Administrator Joseph Manning read the ECPO Professional Standards Bureau letter aloud in a Township Committee meeting; the letter stated that the “investigation and review of all information failed to disclose sufficient evidence to fully prove or disprove the allegations.” (Read the full letter here.)

At that time, Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca indicated that the town was carefully considering its next steps.

“The Township Committee received a copy of the letter in the late afternoon on April 4,” Mayor Victor DeLuca wrote to Village Green in an email on April 5. “The Township Committee discussed the letter and requested the Township Attorney review the options available to the Township Committee for its further action.”

The investigation relates to events following the July 5, 2016 Maplewood fireworks when three teenage boys from South Orange and one from Maplewood were arrested and charged with a variety of counts—including disorderly conduct, obstruction of the administration of law, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault on a police officer — as a large group of teens was escorted by the police through Maplewood toward the Irvington border.

Some witnesses claimed that when the teens came to the Elmwood Avenue and Boyden Avenue area, police “instigated” a fight. Tweets and video posted from that night appear to show some of the altercation, and one girl can be heard saying, “They just pepper sprayed everyone for no reason.” Columbia High School teacher T.J. Whitaker, who taught and advised a number of the teens, called for an independent investigation.

When asked for comment today, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca wrote, “Because this incident is still under investigation, the Township is not able to publicly comment.” When asked for comment in March about the ongoing investigation, DeLuca took the opportunity to point out Resolution 226-16 — “Supporting the Investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor” which was adopted on December 6, 2016 (read it here).

The resolution, which was proposed by DeLuca, notes that the “Maplewood Township Committee has deep concerns about the events of July 5, 2016,” and that the TC “calls upon the Essex County Prosecutor to conduct a thorough, fair, transparent and timely investigation of the alleged events regarding the Maplewood Police Department occurring on July 5, 2016.”

Other Township Committee members expressed their concerns at the March 21 Township Committee meeting:

“There have been incidents between the police and the public about which we cannot legally comment but it does not mean we are not thinking about them or are not concerned about them,” said Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams. “Even though we can not speak about them publicly, our silence is deafening. The public needs to hear from us as the governing body.”

Township Committee member Greg Lembrich also alluded to the incident in his remarks in March, saying, “Just because we are not talking about it because we are not permitted to, I’d like to assure the public that the TC is taking these issues very seriously and are doing whatever we can and … when the time comes to take any public action that we are committed to doing so.”

Also in March, Chief Robert Cimino and Sgt. Thomas DiMaggio attended an instructional training course known as “Fair and Impartial Policing – Training of Trainers”  in order to “ensure that the Maplewood Police Department would be at the forefront of newly mandated cultural diversity training.”

Related coverage:

After Racial Incidents, Maplewood Leaders Promise Not to ‘Shy Away From Uncomfortable Issues’

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