Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office
Today, Richard Rivera of the National Latino Peace Officers Association offers us a letter of opinion about the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
“In 1994 I was a police officer working for the West New York Police Department. At the time, I was confronted with the reality that high-ranking police officers I worked with were protecting organized crime figures. As a young police officer I wondered why no one ever did anything about this openly known and blatant corruption. A few years prior to this, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office attempted to look into the West New York police corruption. The probe never got off the ground because someone within the Prosecutor’s Office apparently tipped off these crooked officers as they were being watched.”
Read the rest of his letter after the jump.
“I began working with the FBI as part of an organized crime investigation. That probe not only produced more than 35 indictments but was the impetus that launched the FBI Hudson County corruption task force. During my time with the FBI, it was clear that public official corruption within the county was rampant. The fact that we also investigated several compromised detectives at the County Prosecutor’s Office allowed me to understand why that office was not prosecuting corruption cases.
Just prior to being fired in 1996, I went to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office to report misconduct by internal affairs investigators within the West New York Police Department. These are the same police supervisors that a citizen would report any concerns of police wrongdoing to. I showed up at the Prosecutor’s Office with documentation and I was told that my complaint would be investigated. The same day, the Prosecutor’s Office turned around and gave my documentation to the very supervisors who I complained of. I was suspended without pay the next day. The FBI took notice and for good reason wouldn’t share investigative leads with county officials. In 1998, representatives from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office went to Newark to discuss crooked investigators.
Unfortunately in the state of New Jersey a citizen does not have a choice as to who should investigate their complaint while law enforcement officers enjoy great latitude in investigating citizens with little or no oversight whatsoever. As such, I returned to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office in 2006 to investigate one of their own internal affairs officers. After providing witnesses’ names and telephone numbers and waiting eight months for a response, I called the Prosecutor’s Office and was told the matter was closed and my complaint would not be investigated. I would have never known this had I not called. Under the New Jersey Attorney General guidelines a citizen is to be notified in writing; (1) acknowledging their complaint was received and (2) an investigative conclusion for the complaint. However, the Prosecutor’s Office was cited in 2005 by the Attorney General for not complying with this policy. The Prosecutor is the chief law enforcement officer in each county and has the authority to oversee local police departments. Given the scenarios above, how could anyone come forward with a citizen complaint? The public is supposed to trust County Prosecutors with overseeing all municipal officers, yet they won’t investigate allegations against one of their own. This speaks volumes about the current citizen complaint process.”
“I have the utmost respect for current Prosecutor Ed DeFazio who has always accepted my phone calls and office visits. I think the problem within his office lies at the managerial level and can hopefully be addressed. Five Hoboken police officers who are willing to testify about possible corruption within their agency are now faced with a similar dilemma which I encountered more than a decade ago. Several officers have already visited the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office to speak with investigators. Standing in the room upon their arrival was a representative from the Hoboken Police Department internal affairs unit (IA). How could these officers speak freely in front of an investigator from their own agency? Since internal affairs is supposed to investigate misconduct by its own members, why was nothing done to certain supervisors prior to law suits being filed. The red flags were everywhere and IA should have done something about these matters. Official action after the recent law suit is suspect at best. (My suit cost taxpayers over $2 million.)
I hope that the Hoboken police officers do not face the same unjustified discipline I did years ago and that once confronted with undeniable evidence the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office actually follows whatever leads they garner. For an office that hasn’t seriously pursued public corruption in more than 25 years, maybe 2008 brings some changes.”
Retired police officer