The Maplewood Township Committee voted 5-0 tonight to release all video and audio from an incident on July 5, 2016 involving the arrest of four local teens after the annual town fireworks.
Local activists have been calling for the release of the tapes in recent weeks after a year of investigations into allegations of racial profiling and a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court regarding the release of police dashboard camera recordings.
Township leaders and counsel had said that any reports or recordings related to the incident could not be released until all investigations were closed. However, an initial internal investigation by the Maplewood Police was followed by an investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. That investigation found “insufficient credible evidence” to warrant a criminal prosecution of police Chief Robert Cimino and Capt. Joshua Cummis but referred a portion of the investigation back to the Township, which in turn has hired the law firm Hillard Heintze to complete the investigation.
Town leaders predicted that the investigation by Hillard Heintze would be completed in late September. Principals from the firm will be present at the August 1 TC meeting, and the public will be able to meet them.
After the TC’s vote tonight, Township staff told Village Green that the recordings should be made available to the parties that filed Open Public Record Act (OPRA) requests in a day or two. Village Green is among the parties that filed a request.
“The Township did what was in the best interest of the community,” Walter Fields of the Black Parents Workshop wrote in an email. “The only way we can have any trust in our local police is if there is full and absolute transparency. We must hold them accountable in a manner that respects their role as public servants and protects the integrity of their unique responsibility to uphold the law. What we hope to learn from these audio and video transmissions is who should be held accountable for the manner in which our children were treated on July 5, 2016.”
Before the vote by the Township Committee, Mayor Victor DeLuca made a brief statement on behalf of the entire Township Committee: