Hopewell Township Committee members responded on June 11 to investigations taking place into several township police officers and municipal employees accused of improper conduct involving social media.
The officers and employees were placed on leave on June 8 after the township learned of the improper conduct in regards to a social media post on Facebook accusing the Black Lives Matter movement of being a terrorist group.
“Complete and thorough internal investigations will be completed,” Hopewell Township Police Chief Lance Maloney said in a statement.
Maloney did not comment on whether officers and employees were placed on paid leave, but did confirm that the investigation remains active.
“This has been a very challenging time here and everywhere. We need to hear your thoughts, your concerns, your experiences and your questions,” Mayor Kristin McLaughlin said. “When we know what you need to know we make sure you get answers. We all deserve those answers.”
She added that the township has hired an independent investigator to handle the civilian cases. The committee also approved the hiring of an independent hearing officer for the police department during the committee’s meeting.
“We on the township committee deplore and condemn racism and we understand the urgency of action,” McLaughlin said.
Residents raised concerns during public comments about the recent accusations and investigations.
“There is a failure of leadership here,” one Hopewell Township resident said.
Some residents asked that public documents be available on the makeup of tickets issued and the history of arrests made by the police department to address any biases and racism.
“We are going to confront these issues head on and take these allegations seriously. I know for one I would like to see, I believe the chief has prepared it, the records on arrest history and want to see it from all sides,” Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski said. “I want to talk more with members in our community about what we need to do moving forward.”
Committeewoman Julie Blake added that there is information out there for the township to improve in every way including transforming police, data collection and licensing of police officers.
“I suggest all of us need to do some good reading to figure out best practices. The 8 Can’t Wait is practiced mostly by our township and the State of New Jersey. I would like people to see more,” she said. “That is the minimum people are asking and that is not enough.”
The 8 Can’t Wait campaign referenced by Blake is a set of police reforms focused on police department’s use of force.
According to McLaughlin, Maloney is in the process of organizing a community forum and listening session and is working on dates in the next couple weeks.