Update, Aug. 2, 12: 36 a.m.: The Township Committee appointed Acting Captain Jimmy DeVaul as Acting Chief and Lieutenant Albert Sally as Acting Captain, according to Mayor DeLuca. Both appointments are until further notice.
The Maplewood Township Committee called for Police Chief Robert Cimino’s immediate resignation, cast a vote of no confidence in his leadership and placed him on 60-day administrative leave on Tuesday night, as protesters filled the court room at the TC’s bi-monthly meeting and took over the nearby National Night Out celebration.
“We are appalled by the excessive force used by police officers against a group of young people…and we are appalled by decisions made by members of our Police Department,” said Mayor Vic DeLuca, a comment other TC members echoed as they listened to multiple members of the community protest the actions of the Maplewood police on the night of July 5, 2016.
“Tonight the delays stop,” said DeLuca.”For a very long time we’ve had to defer action to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office which took six months” to give their ruling. “Then we had an Internal Affairs department that didn’t seem to prioritize” the investigation.
Citing many emails, phone calls and positions of various community and advocacy organizations, DeLuca said the township was now able to act. We will “right this ship.”
To thunderous applause, DeLuca announced the vote of no confidence in Cimino, immediately followed by a motion to demand his immediate resignation and his being placed on immediate administrative leave with pay.
The TC placed Capt. Joshua Cummis on administrative leave for 30 days, through August 31. Cimino and Cummis will have their guns and badges taken away tomorrow and will be barred from entering the police building during their suspensions.
“Your voices were heard,” said DeLuca.
In a blistering statement, Township Committee member Frank McGehee railed against the action of the police, saying that local youth “were herded like cattle out of Maplewood — a town that many of these children call home.”
‘There is no greater message that you are not welcome than being driven out of your hometown simply because of the color of your skin. When did being black become a qualifying factor regarding residency in Maplewood?” said McGehee (see his full comments below).
Prior to the TC meeting, protesters took to the streets at the gazebo near the Hilton Branch of the Maplewood Library and marched to the National Night Out celebration in DeHart Park.
Protester Anita Gundanna of SOMA Action said she was marching because she wanted her “black child [to] grow up in a safe town.”
CHS teacher and parent TJ Whitaker, who filed for the release of audio and video recordings from the events of July 5, 2016, told Village Green, “We are here to demand justice… really we’re here to call for Chief Cimino to be fired….he was the one in charge on July 5, 2016, he gave the orders…. you can see him on the video with his nightstick out.”
Video from the July 5, 2016 incidents show officers punching a handcuffed youth as one officer kicks him in the head. In addition, audio from the evening contains commands by Cimino and Capt. Joshua Cummis directing that officers move a crowd of local teens east from Parker Avenue across the Irvington border. Three South Orange teenage boys and one Maplewood teenage boy were arrested on July 5, 2016 near the Irvington border.
Added Whitaker, “It’s time for Justice…we think that the hiring an (outside) firm to do further investigation is a waste of taxpayer dollars — everything we need to see is clearly on the the audio and video recordings.”
“I’m an educator – I teach English language arts,” said Whitaker, “These children in this community are near and dear to my heart.“
Avery Malcolm Julien, a recent CHS grad who has declared his candidacy for the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education, said, “Tonight’s National Night Out – it’s supposed to be a night to commemorate the relationship between to community and the police…. We can’t have a night like that without acknowledging the transgressions that happened last July.”
Khadija Costley White of the Facebook group SOMa Justice told Village Green, “Tonight people are coming together to stand and let everyone know is not acceptable and not tolerated in this town.” Added, Costley White, “I went to high school here, and have nephews that went to school here, and I have people I care about here, and this means making sure that the people I love are safe.”
This story will be updated with comments from members of the public who spoke.