Tuesday, May 23, 2017


As the Township continues to react to Sunday night's disturbance in De Hart Park that included numerous fights and at least one reported robbery, questions also remain over a police-involved incident dating back nearly a year, on July 5, 2016.

You may recall that police were accused of abusive behavior when dealing with a group of juveniles who had gathered near the corner of Valley Street and Parker Avenue after the Independence Day fireworks that night.

The July 4 fireworks were delayed a day due to rain. But after they were held on July 5, many youths gathered at the corner near Columbia High School and the 7-11, sparking police efforts to disperse the crowd. 

Police later reported that four juveniles were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct, obstruction of the administration of law, resisting arrest, and assault of a police officer.

On Aug. 30, 2016, Police Chief Robert Cimino announced that an internal investigation had been launched into claims that police had
acted improperly during the July 5 events. Cimino and Mayor Vic Deluca recently said that investigation is continuing, but offered no details or any estimation of when it will be completed.

The ongoing investigation has also blocked release of all police reports related to the incident. Public information requests for copies of such reports have been denied.

In September 2016, Maplewoodian.com reported that the Essex County Prosecutor's Office had launched its own investigation into police conduct. That probe ended last month, according to Township Administrator Joseph Manning, who cited a letter from the prosecutor's office that said, in part, "there is insufficient credible evidence to warrant a prosecution in this matter."

But it failed to exonerate the officers, stating only that the investigation "failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation."

Since then, the police department internal investigation has continued with no word on when it might end or any findings.

Since Sunday's incident, some residents have offered concern about potential problems following this year's July 4 fireworks, as well as Maplewoodstock, scheduled for July 8 and 9.

Deluca offered no more comment on the issue, but said the police are always reviewing and updating contingency plans. Chief Cimino did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning.

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