Wednesday, February 13, 2013


ACLU criticizes complaint response, but Police Chief counters that things are better than they think.

A review by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey found that when it comes to reporting complaints to the police department,  most law enforcement departments in the state do not provide the recommended opportunities for residents to adequately report complaints about police actions or behavior.

Sadly, Maplewood is among those that failed in this regard, according to an ACLU spokesperson.

The report, viewable HERE, was issued today and notes that state law requires police departments to accept complaints against officers in person, from third parties, by phone, anonymously, from juveniles, and from undocumented immigrant without fear of being deported.

It states:

What the State Law Says

General principles
• “All complaints of officer misconduct shall be accepted from all persons  who wish to file a complaint regardless of the hour or day of the week.”
• “Any language that would serve to dissuade or intimidate a citizen from coming forward should be avoided.”
• “Complaints should be accepted by any law enforcement officer. At no time should a complainant be told to return later to file his report.”
• “Under no circumstances shall it be necessary for a citizen to make a sworn 
statement to initiate the internal affairs process.”
• “Every police agency shall accept and investigate anonymous complaints”
• “All complaints should be investigated, as long as the complaint contains 
sufficient factual information to warrant an investigation.”
• “All complaints of officer misconduct shall be accepted from all persons 
who wish to file a complaint … This includes ... juveniles.”
• “No state, county, or local law enforcement officer shall inquire about or investigate the immigration status of any victim, witness, potential witness or person requesting police assistance ... [unless] the person has been arrested for an indictable offense or for driving while intoxicated.…”

Statewide, the phone survey of 497 police departments found that fewer than 25% were able to accept resident complaints via all six of the options listed above.

ACLU Spokeswoman Katie Wang told that Maplewood would only accept complaints in person and anonymously, denying such reporting on the phone, from juveniles, from third parties and undocumented immigrants. 

But Police Chief Robert Cimino countered the report, claiming that the department has improved its response and that a staffer who responded to the ACLU did not have all of the information.

Cimino's response to Maplewoodian:

The Maplewood Police Department trains all police and dispatch personnel to understand and to perform their duties in compliance with the NJ State Attorney General’s Guidelines on Internal Affairs and we document our training. 

The Maplewood Police Department command staff has never been contacted officially by the ACLU to report or analyze the reported deficiency; however the one incident that was apparently a “test call” involving questions about an internal affairs complaint occurred in June of 2012. The civilian dispatcher who took the call, although previously trained in the policy, failed to provide all the proper responses to all of the test questions. The dispatcher involved in the incident recognized their own error after ending the call and immediately notified a supervisor of the error. 

The dispatcher involved was immediately counseled and retrained on the areas of deficiency in accord with the NJ State Attorney General’s Guidelines. Training for all personnel is an ongoing process. 

The Maplewood Police Department strives to consistently provide professional service and to always comply with the NJ Attorney General’s Guidelines.

Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to explain our training and corrective process.

Robert J. Cimino
Chief of Police
Maplewood Township
1618 Springfield Ave.
Maplewood, NJ 07040

ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Alex Shalom responded to Cimino's statement with this email:

Although Maplewood answered four of the questions incorrectly, we applaud the immediate steps that the department took to address the error. Proper training is the best recourse to having a properly functioning internal affairs department and we welcome the opportunity to work with Maplewood or any other departments in New Jersey to assist with training.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Their failures are shameful.