Maplewood Township agreed to hire an outside firm to conduct an independent assessment into an alleged case of racial profiling by police last July.
The Township Committee voted 5-0 Tuesday night on a resolution to retain Illinois-based firm Hillard Heintze, LLC at a cost not to exceed $34,850 to look into the incidents that took place last year on July 5, following the town’s annual fireworks show.
The resolution notes that the matter of how police handled crowd control that night “has come into question,” leading the governing body to seek an independent investigation.
That night, 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 and that police were seen using pepper spray on some teens. Tweets and video posted from that night appear to show some of the altercation. Columbia High School teacher T.J. Whitaker, called for an independent investigation.
Although the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office 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 — the ECPO referred a portion of the matter back to the Maplewood Police Department for an Internal Affairs investigation. The Township Committee also asked Township Attorney Roger Desiderio to review the town’s options for further action.
On Tuesday, Mayor Vic DeLuca said the town wants to look at “what policies were adhered to and what were not adhered to and what we could do better…so this would not occur again.”
Desiderio explained that TC member Frank McGeHee originally recommended Hillard Heintze, a nationally recognized law enforcement consulting firm that assists with internal reviews of local police departments. After checking with three other municipalities that had used the firm, Desiderio said the firm’s references were “stellar,” and that Hillard’s work was deemed “timely, professional and on budget.”
Hillard Heintze’s proposal is for $29,000 plus expenses, totaling $34,850.
[Village Green initially learned the investigation was ongoing after we renewed our Open Public Records Act request for audio and police reports from the July 5 incidents. We were told by township officials that no documents will be released until the investigation is complete.]