Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lawsuit challenges State Police denial of records pertaining to excessive force allegedly being applied against South Jersey woman.

On Friday, December 5, 2014 at 9:30 a.m., Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson will hear argument on my lawsuit against the New Jersey State Police.  See Paff v. NJ Department of Law & Public Safety, et al, Docket Number MER-L-1623-14, on-line here.  My lawyer in this matter is Walter M. Luers of Clinton.

This lawsuit arises out of phone call I received on May 10, 2014 in which a witness recounted a Commercial Township (Cumberland County) woman's physical encounter with a unidentified State Trooper.  According to a the report, the woman, who weighs ninety pounds, tried to speak with a Trooper who had responded to a residence to investigate a report of an argument or disturbance.  When the woman tried to hand a telephone to the Trooper so that the woman's mother, who was on the line, could "explain the whole thing," the Trooper allegedly grabbed her by the throat and forcible dragged her down the front step, slammed her on the ground and put his kneecap on her throat.  According to the witness, when another witness asked the Trooper to ease up, the Trooper reportedly said "We can do whatever the f*** we want."

In order to learn the State Police version of what had occurred, I submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for the arrest reports, police incident reports, audio of phone calls and radio transmissions, dash cam video and criminal complaints.  After State Police records custodian, Marco Rodriguez, granted himself two extensions he ultimately denied the request claiming that there was an open investigation and that the records were exempt as "criminal investigatory records."

I then made a subsequent request for State Police policies and procedures requiring police interactions with civilians to be documented by written reports or computer aided dispatch (CAD) entries.  Rodriguez denied this request on the basis that those records are "designated confidential" by N.J.A.C. 13:1E-3.2(a)(1).  But, that section is inapplicable since it exempts "records concerning background investigations or evaluations for public employment, appointment to public office, or licensing, whether open, closed, or inactive."

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