Friday, January 30, 2009

Ocean Township Police Internal Affairs

One of the most secretive areas in local government is the police department's "internal affairs" process. Through several OPRA requests, I have obtained internal affairs records from the Ocean Township Police Department in Ocean County (i.e. Waretown).

I have uploaded here, public filings regarding OTPD disciplinary actions from 2004 through 2007.

There are two different types of reports in this file. First, there are "Internal Affairs Summary Report Forms" that show the number of complaints that were received and processed. Second, there are police memoranda that give more detail as to the nature of the discipline cases. Neither report contains the names of the officers who were disciplined or against whom complaints were filed. (Note: Can you find the logical inconsistency between the 2004 and 2005 summary report forms? I did and I asked OTPD chief to give me a corrected report.)

Still, the reports are somewhat useful in that they reveal such things as: a) a "sexual harassment" complaint was sustained against an officer in 2007, b) an officer was disciplined in 2005 for driving with an expired driver license, and c) an officer was disciplined in 2005 for being intoxicated.

I have uploaded here my recent OPRA request to Ocean Township, a letter from the Township Attorney partially denying my request and a February 2, 2004 letter that the Internal Affairs Unit sent to a man who had filed a complaint against OTPD Officer Leanne Petracca for allegedly conducting a racially motivated traffic stop. (The man's lawsuit against Officer Petracca and the Township settled in August 2008 for $50,000.)

I believe that the public has a legitmate right to know exactly what discipline was imposed on Officer Petracca. But, as you can see, Ocean Township takes the position that even though the fact that Officer Petracca was disciplined is public knowledge, the public's right to know the amount and type of discipline she received is subordinate to the government's need to protect disciplinary or personnel files from public disclosure.

(If NJFOG, an attorney or any other organization believes that this presents a good set of facts for a civil case under the common law right of access, please let me know because I am a willing plaintiff. Note that there is a 45 day period within which such a complaint must be filed.)

Finally, I've obtained the OTPD's Standard Operating Procedure governing its Internal Affairs process. I've scanned it into a file, converted it to text, reconverted it to a text-searchable PDF and have uploaded it here.

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