Hackensack narcotics officers conducted a warrantless search of an apartment in 2016, concocting a false story to justify it, then tampering with the records.
A judge discovered that every cop knew they didn’t have the warrant, and their excuse was fabricated. The city decided to fire them. And Attorney General Gurbir Grewal – the Bergen County District Attorney at the time – dismissed eight criminal cases in which these officers had played a role because they destroyed their credibility in court.
Yet now, of the four lying cops who have not yet retired, two will collect their badges and recover their back wages, as an appeals court has just chosen to rely on the decision of the Civil Service Commission, which overturned the city’s decision.
Anyone in their right mind can see that these officers do not belong to the force. The attorney general saw it, and so did the city. This is another case where the bad cops haven’t received the punishment they deserve. And the legislature, which has blocked most police reforms, must get on with it and do its job.
Start here: AG Grewal has pushed for a licensing system for all agents, to ensure they meet minimum standards or lose their jobs. The legislator did nothing to put this in place. Here’s a classic case where it would be useful, assuming the licenses would require agents to obey the law and not lie on official reports.
“In practice, I don’t know how an officer would continue to function when their credibility has been undermined, as is the case here,” Wayne Fisher, senior advisor at the Rutgers Center on Policing, told us Monday.
These officers cannot go back to the streets and credibly protect the public or testify in court, now that they are classified as “Brady officers” – a designation that requires a prosecutor to notify defense attorneys of their. history of lying. Any arrest they make can lead to an acquittal.
“I don’t know how you get over it,” agreed Jon Shane, professor at John Jay who was a Newark cop for 25 years.
The warrantless search surveillance video, which The Record obtained through a request for public recording, is all a defense lawyer would need to show in court: In December 2016, you see these cops walking in in the building, apparently by picking a lock in the lobby door. They reach the third floor, turn for about 16 minutes, enter the apartment, then leave after 45 minutes in the building.
This completely disproves their cover story: that they were there to check for narcotics activity and entered the apartment after an elderly man who lives across the hall mentioned that an unattended child was inside. “There couldn’t be a clearer set of facts,” said Raymond Wiss, labor attorney for Hackensack.
Another appeal is pending, he said. But in the meantime, this poses a big problem for the city, which has little choice but to try and find administrative jobs for these guys. A police department in a large city may have clerical duties in which officers are not on the street, but Hackensack does not, Wiss said: “There are no purely administrative functions for police officers. basic.
Meanwhile, taxpayers are forced to pay these officers the same salaries, even though they cannot credibly perform their duties. And they have 10 to 15 years of employment ahead of them, not to mention their future retirements.
Because Grewal had to dismiss court cases already linked to the lying police officers, 17 defendants, many with criminal backgrounds, were allowed to skip the trial, the Record reported. These cops dishonored themselves and put the criminals back on the streets; it is professional misconduct. Now, like in other professions, we should have the power to withdraw their licenses.
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