By Brenda Flanagan
Edison Township’s Police Department circling the wagons as critics pilloried an agency that’s so allegedly dysfunctional, it needs the state AG’s office to take over of its Internal Affairs unit. Today, Sen. Linda Greenste of the Law and Public Safety Committee called Edison’s situation “trouble in River City. I think everyone would agree there is a very serious problem here. When you read what goes on in Edison, it is so beyond the pale.”
“I don’t know why the police department in Edison would want to handle Internal Affairs, full well knowing that the citizens don’t respect the process,” said Sen. Peter Barnes the Vice-Chair of LPSC.
Barnes sponsored the takeover bill. In a room packed with police officers from across New Jersey, including Edison, Barnes described a department crippled by toxic politics — claimed the IA unit whitewashes complaints from the minority community. He cited the notorious “lingerie cop” incident at a local hotel where a uniformed Edison officer allegedly coerced a young woman into wearing lingerie and then helped her flush her marijuana down the toilet. Barnes said Edison’s Internal Affairs investigators botched the case.
“That’s wrong. The IA unit in Edison did not properly file the charges within 45 days, and that officer was able to stay out for two years at full pay, earning over $250,000. And a court order was entered allowing that person back on the job in Edison,” Barnes said.
Barnes’ bill would require New Jersey’s AG to run the Edison Internal Affairs unit during a two-year pilot program. But the state PBA noted Middlesex County’s prosecutor has closely monitored Edison’s Internal Affairs unit since 2013, and reported regularly to the state AG’s office.
“I have a lot of problems when the New Jersey state legislators doing single-issue legislation for one single town,” said New Jersey State PBA President Pat Colligan.
The state AG’s office noted it doesn’t want or need to take over Edison’s IA unit.
“Our concern, of course, is that members of the public are submitting complaints and getting properly dealt with — and we’ve seen those complaint numbers go down, we’ve seen the complaints of police against police go down, and so we’re very encouraged by what’s been going on,” said Assistant New Jersey Attorney General B. Stephan Finkel.
The local Sandy Larson the legal advisor of the local NAACP praised the department, noting, “…there has been an effort to increase diversity on the police force. We do not see the issues confronting the department at present as race based.”
Senators voted Barnes’ bill out of committee, despite Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan’s claim it’s misinformed.
“Unfortunately Sen. Barnes has initiated this legislation based upon erroneous perceptions derived from newspaper articles and biased accounts of a small group of anti-reform-minded police officers,” he said.
Edison’s Town Council says it needs to gather more data on how the IA unit’s performing, and how Sen. Barnes’ bill might impact that. It expects to get that report together in a couple of weeks.