BLOOMFIELD — Alleging a “cover up,” the town’s mayor has vowed to “fight to purge” the township’s police department of “bad officers.”
Mayor Michael Venezia made the statement on his Facebook page Monday, in the wake of an indictment of two Bloomfield police officers on conspiracy and misconduct charges after prosecutors viewed recordings from two dashboard cameras showed officers hitting a suspect during a June 2012 arrest on the Garden State Parkway.
A police officer also slammed his cruiser into the front of the suspect's parked car.
Officers Orlando Trinidad and Sean Courter, both 33, were arraigned Friday in Superior Court on charges including tampering with public records and false swearing, according to Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Trinidad also faces an aggravated assault charge.
The charges stem from the arrest of 30-year-old Marcus Jeter, who was initially charged with eluding, resisting arrest, and aggravated assault on an officer. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Jeter after viewing a second dashboard video.
The mayor said he was “outraged.”
“Like many of you, I am outraged by the police dashboard video and the fact that these charges were initially dismissed by our internal affairs division,” Venezia said in the statement. “I have contacted the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office to request and investigation of our police department’s internal affairs division.
“I will demand the immediate suspension of any officer involved in this police cover-up, and fight to purge our department of any bad officers,” the mayor added.
However, the lawyer for one of the officers called the mayor's comments "bemusing and quizzical" - and politically motivated.
"The only logical inference that can be made from your conduct/statements is that same was politically motivated," said Patrick Toscano, Trinidad's attorney, in a letter sent today. "It may be beneficial to you if you reserve your 'outrage' until after this criminal trial is held. It may also be sagacious if you did not abandon your municipal police officers so expeditiously, without knowing all of the underlying facts."
Courter's attorney, Charles Clark, said today that his client would not be pleading guilty - and would go to trial, because he's innocent. The prosecution is "misguided" on this case, Clark said.
"It's going to come out, and it's going to come out soon," the defense attorney said.
Both officers have been suspended without pay since April 2013, their lawyers confirmed.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray is pursuing official misconduct charges against two Bloomfield police officers.
Mayor Michael Venezia is also asking the prosecutor to investigate
the Bloomfield police department's internal probe of the June 2012
arrest, and why they didn't find the officers at fault.
The Bloomfield Police Department has been a lightning rod for controversy recently. Two officers were suspended without pay in December, after being accused of bilking the town of time off while saying they were in the Air Force Reserves. Those two officers were reinstated by the township in January after some public demonstrations.
The chief, Chris Goul, took an early retirement at the beginning of the year, and the acting chief in his place, James Behre, was placed on paid leave earlier this month after publicly accusing a councilman of asking him to trade favors in exchange for the councilman’s support of making him chief permanently.
In : #EssexCounty
Tags: bloomfield mayor alleges police ‘cover up ’ vows to ‘purge’ police department of ‘bad officers’
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