Thursday, June 27, 2013

Court: Egg Harbor must disclose police report regarding "asleep at the wheel" cop.

In a twenty-three page opinion issued on June 25, 2013, Atlantic County Superior Court Assignment Judge Julio L. Mendez ruled that the public is allowed to see a report written by Egg Harbor Township Police Sergeant Michael Hughes soon after Northfield Police found an off-duty Egg Harbor Township officer named Jeffrey Lancaster asleep behind the wheel of his personal vehicle during the early morning hours of February 27, 2011.  Judge Mendez's opinion and order are on-line here and background on the lawsuit is on-line here.

Judge Mendez found that since there was no internal affairs investigation pending at the time Hughes wrote his report, it was not subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) exception that restricts access to records that "pertain to an investigation in progress."  Judge Mendez, noting that police officers serve "in a position of trust" found that disclosure of the report "will only fortify the trust and credibility afforded to the Egg Harbor Township police department by its citizenry." The suit was filed by Walter M. Luers, Esq. of Clinton on behalf of John Paff, the plaintiff.

The court did allow certain "legitimately confidential information" to be redacted from Hughes' report and denied access to Lancaster's preliminary and final disciplinary records that arose from the incident.

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