Civil rights group pushes for grand jury review of NBPD
A city civil rights organization released a review detailing force incidents and citizen complaints of officers in the New Brunswick Police Department following the death of 46-year-old Barry Deloatch.
The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, a civil rights project run out of an office on Jersey Avenue, gathered statistics about officers use of force, which were released to the public by the department.
With this information, the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey wants to present Deloatch’s case to a grand jury for review, said Richard Rivera, committee chairperson for the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey.
Organization members believe the NBPD should not handle its own review of the department’s force use.
“We’re looking to get county and statewide reforms in place for police accountability. The police department has the ability to track use of force, but they don’t,” he said. “From the tragedy and release of the report, we hope they institute a mechanism to track and report incidents and complaints.”
The review named Officer Brad Berdel the shooter when he and his partner, Dan Mazan, chased Deloatch into the backyard of 105 Throop Avenue.
But the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has not released the names of the officers involved in the incident. Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan also said in a statement that the incident happened in a Throop Avenue alley.
A Notice of Tort Claim sent by attorneys on Monday on behalf of Deloatch’s estate and two sons also named Berdel and Mazan as the officers involved in the case but did not name the shooter, according to mycentraljersey.com.
Though Kaplan kept the officer’s names confidential, he said one officer was a member of the police department for two and a half years and the other had more than six years of experience at the department. Both were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The review shows that Berdel and Mazan were involved in 10 separate reported use-of-force incidents in 2010, with 80 percent of them involving black or Latino men.
While incidents vary from compliance holds to pepper spray to actually discharging a firearm, Berdel’s five incidents in 2010 exceed the department’s average of four reports per officer.
But other officers in the department hold between eight to 17 incidents each, constituting what the organization’s review terms, “the Top 10.”
“It’s very telling that the number of force incidents are isolated to a very small percentage of officers,” Rivera said. “[There] are only a handful of officers producing so many complaints and so many force incidents.”
In reviewing the police department’s records, the organization also analyzed internal affairs complaints from 2001 to 2010 and found complaints about excessive force cases were sustained 2.7 percent of the time.
None of the 67 complaints about racial profiling or biased treatment were sustained during that period, according to the review.
The NBPD and the prosecutor’s office had no comment about the report, according to mycentraljersey.com.
New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said he has not thoroughly reviewed the report but asked the police department to review the accusations Tuesday at the Ebenezer Baptist Church at a community meeting with those upset over police brutality in the wake of Deloatch’s death.
A police officer fatally shot Deloatch after he ran from questioning, piercing his side and severing his aorta, according to a statement from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
Investigators are determining whether Deloatch used a weapon against the officers to warrant the shooting and have sent 38 pieces of evidence, including the bullet fired and the officer’s gun, for analysis at outside labs, Kaplan said.
Rivera said the NBPD needs to strengthen its community relations and having a grand jury review the case could help.
“The NBPD has had a negative relationship with the community, when you have transparency and an open process it fosters communication and understanding,” he said. “The grand jury lets an outside body look at it and come to their own logical conclusion.”
Rivera also hopes a public forum can be arranged for residents to voice their opinions about police misconduct.
“Hopefully there will be an independent review of the incident that has public participation,” he said. “[People can ask] ‘Where are the flaws, and how can we correct [them]?’”