Protesters find Mayor Cahill’s policy changes insufficient


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Photo by Jennifer Miguel-HelLman |

New Brunswick residents Tormel Pittman, left, and Walter Hudson question the investigation of New Brunswick Police Department’s complaints during the community forum last night at City Hall.


New Brunswick residents chanted “No justice, no peace” at last night’s community forum after attendees found Mayor Jim Cahill’s response to the alleged shooting of Barry Deloatch and general police harassment unsatisfying.

After the charges were brought against Sgt. Richard Rowe of the NBPD for mishandling internal affairs complaints, Cahill instituted a policy that after a complaint is filed and reviewed by the NBPD, it must also be reviewed by the Middlesex County's Prosecutors office before being closed.

The discussion, which took place at City Hall on Bayard Street, became heated an hour into the meeting after community members questioned Cahill’s attitude during the forum. Residents, who have been protesting alleged police brutality in Deloatch’s death, began chanting slogans.

Tormel Pittman, a spokesman for the Deloatch family, said Cahill should leave office and resign.

Photo: Jennifer Miguel-HelLman

New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill, left, and City Council President Robert Recine listen to resident concerns at an open forum last night in City Hall on Bayard Street.

In response, Cahill said he did not expect anything different from Pittman.

“I would expect you not to support me, and to never support me,” he said.

Pittman said the mayor did not value the community or its residents, which he blamed for the inaction.

“I don’t respect you, you don’t respect us and you don’t respect the Deloatch family,” he said.

Prior to the outburst, Cahill said the city was responsible for any misbehavior from police officers.

“There is no greater responsibility more important on the part of government than the protection of the people it serves,” he said. “Equal to that responsibility is the expectation that the police department do so in a manner that protects the rights of our citizens.”

The Internal Affairs Unit of the police department is supposed to handle any issues if the rights of the citizens are breached, Cahill said.

“Unfortunately between the years of 2003 through 2007 under the authority of a certain Sgt. Richard Rowe, who was assigned to Internal Affairs, this may not have occurred,” Cahill said.

Rowe lost 81 different filed complaints against officers during his tenure, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

Penns Grove, N.J., resident Walter Hudson asked if there would be investigations into other officers overlooking Rowe, but Cahill said the investigation was complete.

“We’re satisfied that it is limited to Sgt. Rowe,” Cahill said.

But Cahill said policies have been implemented so mistakes are not repeated.

“Procedural changes have been implemented to provide better oversight to further safeguard record keeping,” he said.

The police department will now notify the prosecutor’s office every time an internal affairs complaint is filed, Cahill said. There will also be a monthly report released to show the number of internal affairs complaints received and the breakdown of the types of complaints.

The city will also appoint an independent hearing officer to take cases where complainers feel their complaint was mishandled from 2003, the start of Rowe's tenure, to today, Cahill said.

Cahill will also appoint Charly Gayden Esq. to act as a civilian community liaison officer to deal with interactions between the public and the police, and help the public identify between different police procedures.

While Somerset, N.J., resident Noble Aaron El Shabazz said the idea was good, he disagreed with the city appointing the officer.

“The person should be selected by the community members themselves. We should select our own civilian liaison, not the police, not the mayor, not the city council,” he said.

Eunice Tillman, committee member of section two of ward two, said there is no proper communication between the people and the police, but did commend one officer, Jay Nievez.

“Young people are afraid to complain, because they will be harassed for the rest of their life,” she said. “But he will talk to them like they are human beings and not animals.”

Tillman said the problem arises because new officers are given night patrol duties and do not know the community.

“Because of their seniority all the seasoned ones are off and you have all these young cowboys at night,” she said.

But Cahill said newer officers are not the only one assigned to night patrol.

“There are a number of younger officers at night, but there is also a good blend of seasoned policemen,” he said.

Cahill said the city has no power to sign an ordinance that would require that New Brunswick police officers have to live in the city for three years prior to being officers. Resident Charlie Kratovil suggested this ordinance at last week’s city council meeting.

“By N.J. law under civil service rules and regulations, what New Brunswick can do is require that police must live in the city at the time that they apply, at the time that they take the test, at the time they get hired and for a year afterwards,” he said.

This process amounts to two-and-a-half to four years minimum, Cahill said.

Hudson said the real problem was not in the general actions of the police but the lack of chastisement they received.

“The problem is not the policing in the community, it’s the accountability. You [Cahill] do not hold your officers accountable for beating the community down, or shooting its residents,” he said.

 

Corrections: An earlier version of this article listed Tormel Pittman, Noble Aaron El Shabazz and Walter Hudson as New Brunswick residents. El Shabazz is a resident of Somerset, and Hudson of Penns Grove. The article also misspelled the name of Charly Gayden Esq.


By Tabish Talib

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