Thursday, November 10, 2011

Did Northfield Police give break to drunk-driving cop?

Update:  Judge Julio L. Mendez issued his ruling in the case, on-line here.
Update:  Judge Julio L. Mendez, after receiving the in camera documents from Egg Harbor, has scheduled oral argument for Thursday, October 18th at 1:30 p.m. at the Atlantic County Civil Courthouse in Atlantic City.  Motion paperwork is on-line here.

On September 29, 2011, Clinton attorney Walter M. Luers filed a lawsuit on my behalf against two Atlantic County municipalities and their police officials seeking disclosure of records pertaining to a curious traffic stop during the early morning hours of February 17, 2011. A copy of that lawsuit is on-line here and a November 10, 2011 Press of Atlantic City article about it is on-line here.

Records I requested reveal that at 2:04 a.m., Northfield City Police observed a black Mercedes sitting at a traffic light while the light went through multiple rotations. Police initially reported that they had difficulty waking the driver and getting him to "open up" the car's door. There were also recorded conversations indicating that the driver was "A.O.B." (which, in police-speak, means "alcohol on breath.")

Later, after Northfield Police determined that the driver was Jeffrey Lancaster, an off-duty Egg Harbor Township police officer, they apparently tried to sanitize their radio communications by saying that Lancaster was "definitely sound asleep" but "no A.O.B." and attributed Defendant Lancaster falling sound asleep behind the wheel at two o'clock in the morning to "moonlighting." Even though Defendant Lancaster was purportedly not drunk, Northfield Police inexplicably asked for Egg Harbor Police Sergeant Michael Hughes to report to the scene to "give [Lancaster] a ride home."

My subsequent records request caused Egg Harbor Township police to admit that they investigated the incident and disciplined Lancaster for violating "several departmental rules and regulations." Yet, the police refused to provide me with access to any of the investigation's records or a report that Sergeant Hughes filed regarding the incident.

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