Nearly 80 Maplewood Police audio recordings — most not even one minute long — were released to Village Green on July 25, adding another layer of information to the slowly evolving story of alleged racial profiling by police after the township fireworks on July 5, 2016.
The first 40 or so files tell the tale of a large crowd of teenagers gathering after the fireworks on Valley Street near Columbia High School.
Written incident reports from the evening and the early audio files show police responding to a fight and reacting to a reportedly “unresponsive” crowd with pepper spray, then working with rescue personnel to treat individuals affected by the spray. The audio files and reports describe officers reacting to the movements of the crowds and working to disperse the crowd in the vicinity of Valley Street.
The crowd seems to be growing more orderly (in the 42nd file, an officer reports, “We’re giving escorts to everybody here on Suffolk”), then sometime after the crowd has moved past Valley and Parker, the tone of the commands in the audio tapes changes, with Police Chief Robert Cimino and Capt. Joshua Cummis issuing orders directing officers to move the group to the Irvington border.
[Note: An investigation by the Professional Standards Bureau of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, completed this spring, found that there was “insufficient credible evidence” to warrant a criminal prosecution of Cimino and Cummis on charges of racial profiling related to the incidents of July 5, 2016. While a portion of the investigation by a third party is ongoing, the Maplewood Township Committee voted 5-0 on July 18, 2017 to release police materials related to the incidents.]
In audio filed #43, a voice identified to Village Green as that of Police Chief Robert Cimino can be heard clearly over the radio stating, “ALRIGHT WE’RE GONNA SEND ‘EM EAST.” At this point, police appear to be directing and corralling the crowd rather than following and dispersing.
Audio file #47 has what sounds like a police dispatcher asking if the commanding officers want Irvington Police to come and assist at Parker and Suffolk. Captain Cummis responds, “HAVE THEM MAINTAIN THEIR BORDER. WE’RE COMING TO THEM.”
On audio file #50, an officer on foot reports that police and the crowd are still mid-north Elmwood to Boyden and says, “Crowd pretty much quiet, we’re just maintaining.” He is directed: “BOYDEN TO ELMWOOD, BOYDEN TO ELMWOOD.” The officer replies, “Go again, I didn’t get that.” The command is repeated: “BOYDEN TO ELMWOOD. BOYDEN TO ELMWOOD…. WE’RE GOING THIS WAY.”
In #51, Cummis says, “Turn down Elmwood. Turn down Elmwood…. Car’s coming. Let’s get ’em down Elmwood. Notify Irvington [police] they are coming down Elmwood towards their town.”
In #52, Cummis says, “Once they reach the Irvington border and enter Irvington, I want you to maintain our border on Franklin. [LATER] I want them to maintain our border once they leave our town. [PAUSE] Elmwood Avenue! Get ’em down Elmwood Avenue!”
At Elmwood and Boyden, as has been previously reported, a fight broke out in which three South Orange teenage boys and one Maplewood teenage boy were arrested. These is no audio of the fights and arrest; there is audio of police officers reporting about youths being under arrest and being transported.
Village Green is awaiting release of police video from the incident. The town clerk has reported that video will be made available on Friday, July 28. Mayor Vic DeLuca has explained that the video is taking longer to produce as the town is working to obscure the faces of minors on the video.