Former employees of North Brunswick Police Department say racism among officers, toward public is real; administrators say otherwise

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Editor’s note: Production deadline for the Sentinel newspaper is on Fridays. This article was completed prior to NBC’s follow up interview with former North Brunswick Patrolman Michael Campbell that aired on July 27.

 

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A recently retired police officer is upset by the deaths of innocent minorities, racial injustice, inequality and the subsequent looting and rioting – but said he is not surprised by the mounting frustration in society as it is something he has been documenting and bringing attention to for years.

Dr. Michael Campbell, a patrolman for the North Brunswick Police Department, said he remembers first officially complaining on July 7, 2016, to his captain at the time because “tension was very high in the public arena, just like it is now” after a U.S. Army Reserve veteran killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas, reacting to police shootings of Black men. In a dated email to his superiors, he mentions aggressive behavior toward minorities and acts of discrimination toward himself by officers and citizens alike.

Since then, Campbell, who is a minority, said he has been speaking out about what he believes to be the unfair treatment of minorities by police officers. He said he complained about officers not writing detailed, accurate, investigative reports as far back as 2016, but claims his emails to administration went unanswered.

Campbell said there are a lot of good officers in North Brunswick and across the country. And he said, “I’m not putting the department down, I’m just asking for equality.”

“I don’t want what’s happened, especially with [George] Floyd – that officer [Derek Chauvin] fell through the cracks and somehow the early warning system we allege we have here failed.

“If you keep avoiding the truth by putting up a facade you are going against the ethos of law enforcement, which calls for us to serve, protect, to honor, to serve with integrity.

“If you address the facts and the problems, you are going against the unions, you are also going against the ‘blue wall of silence,’ you are also going against ethos. We are sworn to protect. I’ve lived and experienced it firsthand. … The subculture ethos of police is destroying the integrity of the police profession,” he said.

Campbell said non-minorities are “not experiencing what we [minorities] are experiencing so they are not vocal on the issues,” adding that no one speaks out because they are afraid to do so.

“It’s not a lie. It’s the truth,” Campbell said, pointing to documents, meeting minutes and department directives he has in his possession. “I’m an officer, too. I know how it works.”

However, representatives of the township vehemently refute all of his accusations.

***

Part of the issue dates back to November 2009, when, according to the minutes from an emergency meeting of the Township Council, council members asked why tickets were down in number and asked the police department to help the municipal side of the budget.

“Where are our loses (sic)? Lose (sic) of revenue, lose (sic) of interest, municipal court revenue down (ticket writing down). Discussion takes place regarding police officers writing tickets and the Traffic Safety Bureau,” the minutes read.

“Council asks why ticket writing is so down? Shouldn’t everyone in traffic safety be writing tickets? Can’t we use the Citi Stat reports to see where and why tickets are down? Moved cops out of schools, now two are out of traffic safety? Why is there police presence in Governor’s Pointe? ‘It’s time for the cops to help us!’ ” the minutes state.

Campbell claimed that for years there was an unwritten policy that the more tickets an officer wrote, the more overtime he or she would be paid. The deal, through word of mouth, was for every 40 tickets you wrote, you would get one session of court overtime, he said. Officers would receive four hours of pay minimum, even if court took five minutes, he alleged.

The alleged scam was considered quid pro quo: the more tickets an officer wrote, the more he or she benefited by being scheduled for more overtime sessions, hence an increase in pay, and the more revenue the town brought in to offset the budget, especially after the recession of 2008, according to the allegations.

Edmund M. DeVeaux, executive vice president and member of Burton Trent Public Affairs, LLC, was hired in February to represent the township in matters of police-community relations.

On behalf of North Brunswick Township and the North Brunswick Police Department, he denied any and all such allegations.

“There is no written or unwritten directive pertaining to quotas or quid pro quo for ticket writing and court sessions/overtime.

“If one would like to draw a link between ticket writing and overtime associated with court appearances in North Brunswick, the honest approach is: officers in Traffic Safety write more tickets for motor vehicle infractions than other officers. The likelihood of an officer who writes many tickets to spend time in court is greater than that of an officer who writes fewer tickets.

“The department has no say in how much time an officer may spend in court. Factors influencing an officer’s time in court include court scheduling, which is done independent of the department; and tickets paid online versus tickets with a mandatory court appearance. In any event, there is no systematic reward or punishment for writing more or fewer tickets.”

However, Campbell claims an increase in revenue points to the alleged ticket scam, which began after the council meeting in 2009, and a drop in revenue in 2019 occurred because the quid pro quo stopped after other municipalities in the state uncovered such schemes around 2018; North Brunswick halted its initiatives at the direction of administrators, he claimed.

By way of numbers, according to the most recent data available, in 2019, there were 72,452 incidents in town handled by the North Brunswick Police Department, of which 26,205 were calls for service, according to information provided by the department. There were 15,194 motor vehicle stops, which resulted in 18,347 summonses being issued. There were 1,205 arrests made during the year.

By comparison, the 2017 year-end statistics show a total of 86,151 incidents, of which 25,830 were calls for service, according to information provided by the department. There were 24,357 motor vehicle stops conducted with 31,296 summonses issued. There were 1,592 arrests made during the year.

For calendar year 2016, the police department handled 84,108 incidents, of which 23,813 were calls for service, according to information provided by the department. There were 22,648 motor vehicle stops, which resulted in 28,885 summonses being issued; and 1,549 arrests made during the year.

Revenue from the municipal court in 2009 was $1.055 million, compared to highs of $1.309 million in 2017 and $1.308 million in 2018, according to budget documents. 2019 showed $1.044 million, according to budget records.

The New Jersey Courts Report of the Supreme Court Committee on Municipal Court Operations, Fines and Fees from June 2018 states: “The Municipal Courts collect a number of legal financial obligations, including fines for offenses, court costs, and surcharges, not all of which are retained by the municipality. …

“For disorderly persons offenses, petty disorderly persons offenses, and local ordinances (including most parking offenses), all fines go to the municipality. N.J.S.A. 2C:46-4(c).

“For traffic offenses, in most instances in which a local police officer wrote the ticket, one-half of the fine money goes to the municipality, with the other half going to the county. N.J.S.A. 39:5-40 to –41.

“Otherwise, the collected money is forwarded to the state. N.J.S.A. 39:5-40.

“For local ordinance violations, municipalities may set their own fine amounts or ranges within the statutory maximum, as established by N.J.S.A. 40:49-5, and collected fines go to the municipality.

“Finally, approximately 60 funds linked to individual statutes have been created, and where appropriate, collected amounts are sent to those funds. The processes described above are the norm, and are followed unless otherwise required by statute.”

DeVeaux said revenue from tickets does not benefit the township, as per Campbell’s allegations.

“There are summonses that require court appearances. Certain officers may be required to attend court more often than others. As far as how long and how much an officer is paid for attending court is determined by the flow of court proceedings and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, respectively,” he said.

“First, the largest portion of money from fines that people pay as a result of motor vehicle violations does not come back to the township. Most of it goes to the state. Middlesex County also receives a portion of the fines.

“The portion of fines that is eventually allocated to North Brunswick goes to the general fund. Fines are not redirected back to the police department,” he said.

In accordance with the issue, records sent to the Sentinel by an anonymous source show that from February 2014 to April 2018, Campbell was paid about $66,000 in overtime; although many were marked down as 4-hour shifts, which the person alleged was Campbell taking part in the ticket scheme, there were several that are 4.5-, 6.5- or 8-hour shifts once or twice a month.

“That is impossible for me to make that [from just a ticket scam]. I had many trials, grand jury inquiries and overtime associated with my work,” Campbell said. “I have always been a high summons writer since becoming a police officer and the majority of those years I did not get paid for the volume of tickets.

“Because I have always written many valid tickets, by default of the ticket incentive program, I received overtime. That person should check my numbers from 1994 to the present,” he said.

Campbell said the number reflects his entire overtime payment for combined years and includes all court overtime from various venues.

He also said if the person who provided that information compared his numbers to the numbers of traffic unit members and supervisors who received court overtime as court supervisors, it would outweigh his numbers.

Records sought by the Sentinel regarding the number of summonses written by various officers, both in Traffic Safety and regular patrol, including Campbell, over a time period from 2009 to 2019, show the following statistics:

Campbell’s quantity of tickets ranged from 440 in 2010 to 1,650 in 2017 to 774 in 2019. Campbell claims 2017 was the height of the alleged scheme.

Another patrolman went from 104 in 2010 to 56 in 2015 to 70 in 2016; there are no tickets recorded after 2017.

A third patrolman went from 480 in 2010 to 1,845 in 2017 to 577 in 2019.

An officer who was part of Traffic Safety went from 838 in 2010 to 985 in 2017 to 600 in 2018; there are no records indicated for 2019.

A fellow Traffic Safety officer went from 1,937 in 2010 to 756 in 2016 to 11 during the first three months of 2017; no records are available afterward.

Separate records obtained by the Sentinel show a high rate of municipal court overtime assigned to all officers employed from 2012 to 2019.

Comparing the number of tickets written to the municipal court overtime assignments, per the allegations, in 2012, Campbell wrote 1,550 tickets and was assigned 28 4-hour court sessions. Another patrolman wrote 109 tickets and had one four-hour court session. A third patrolman wrote 1,245 tickets and received 45 4-hour court sessions and a few other of varying lengths.

A Traffic Safety officer wrote 1,986 tickets and received 43 4-hour court sessions. Another Traffic Safety officer wrote 2,252 tickets and received 51 4-hour court sessions.

Using data from 2017, because that is when Campbell alleges overtime scheduling was rampant, Campbell wrote 1,650 tickets and had 45 4-hour overtime shifts assigned, plus a few 2- and 3-hour shifts. The patrolman who wrote 1,845 tickets had 45 4-hour overtime shifts assigned, plus a few 1- and 2-hour shifts. The Traffic Safety officer who wrote 985 tickets had 26 4-hour shifts, plus a few 2-hour shifts. The patrolman with 0 tickets in 2017 still had five 4-hour shifts assigned. And the Traffic Safety officer with 11 tickets total had five 4-hour shifts and one 1-hour shift assigned during the year.

Comparing that to data received through June 2019, which was about a year after Campbell alleges the presumed ticket scam stopped, Campbell wrote 392 tickets from January through June, and was assigned four 4-hour court sessions through June. A patrolman wrote 946 tickets from January through June, and received two 4-hour sessions through June.

Three of the other officers cited had zero tickets written in 2019 due to their respective promotions/retirement. One of those officers had seven overtime sessions of varying times from January to June. The other two have no sessions on record.

In terms of matching the quantity of tickets per month per officer to the alleged increase in overtime sessions, “there are no responsive records” associated with emails from the clerk’s office to the officers pertaining to overtime, according to the results of an OPRA request for such information. The court clerk is responsible for scheduling police overtime.

“Neither under this administration or current departmental leadership has there ever been a policy of quotas. According to Mayor [Francis “Mac”] Womack, there have been several times when he and members of the Township Council have urged the police department to step up their enforcement activities with respect to motor vehicle violations. This was never done to generate revenue,” DeVeaux said.

“Rather, it was because of complaints received from residents regarding speeding or careless driving in their neighborhoods, or because of observations of motor vehicle violations on our highways and major roads.”

“Because the township is bordered or intersected by three major highways – Route 1, Route 130, and Route 27 – and additionally have several thoroughfares such as Livingston Avenue, Jersey Avenue and Finnegans Lane, the perception of substantial traffic enforcement may exist. As a relatively suburban community, officers must also patrol our neighborhood streets where our children play and ride their bikes.

“Taking all of this into account, there may be officers who, based on their assignment, may write more traffic summonses than other officers. This is not a ‘scheme,’ ” DeVeaux said.

DeVeaux explained again, on behalf of the township, “There are no official or unofficial quotas. There are no quotas for tickets or arrests. In the scenario you lay out, a quota would really not make any sense.”

 

***

In relation, Campbell alleged that officers “hunted” minorities, especially at the border of North Brunswick and New Brunswick, to help increase ticket writing.

He said a fellow officer admitted to leaving his district and traveling to District 1 (North Brunswick is separated into four districts) where minorities preside to hone his skills on car searches and arrests. He said Georges Road and Livingston Avenue is a prime target area.

Campbell also has a copy of a directive that claims an arrest quota.

Plan 1 specifically tells officers along Route 1 north to “focus on commercial vehicles least scrutinized by police and non-commercial vehicles traveling northbound from possible departure cities, i.e., Trenton and Philadelphia, high gun and drug cities. Traffic stops will be used to apprehend weapons and drugs being carried up to the northern part of the state.”

It names the objectives as a minimum of 10 vehicle stops each hour by each officer named in the directive, a minimum of 50 vehicles per execution by both officers, a minimum of five consents to search per execution, and a minimum of five criminal arrests involving a weapon and/or drugs per month.

The District 2 Apartment Cleanup section focuses on the 500 Adams Lane Apartment Complex, Farrington Inn and Birchwood Court. “Identify specific apartment units, individuals and groups that are repetitive offenders. Gather new intelligence about the repetitive offenders.” The objectives were a minimum of three arrests per month and to focus on transients entering and leaving the complexes, according to the document.

Campbell said this directive was reissued in 2012 after being initially distributed and reported to the PBA in 2005. He said he, himself, told his supervisor it was discriminatory in nature but that the supervisor, who Campbell claims is racially intolerant, did not see it as such. And, he said, he later requested a shift change because of the “racial intolerance that my supervisor was exposing me to.”

“There are no ticket quotas or arrest quotas,” DeVeaux reiterated on behalf of township officials.

“We are not aware of any individual officers targeting minorities for traffic stops, nor do we condone the practice of race-based targeting for any purpose. …

“There is no such activity let alone a policy of ‘hunting’. Both Mayor Womack and Chief [Joseph] Battaglia reiterate there is no quota system in North Brunswick. An officer on duty may leave their district for any lawful purpose. Targeted enforcement is not race-based. Targeted enforcement is based on several factors including resident complaints, frequency of illegal activity, and hazardous conditions like frequency of accidents,” DeVeaux said.

Campbell began filing Open Public Records Act requests in spring 2018; he said the township wanted to charge him thousands of dollars for the requested paperwork.

He filed a report with the Anti-Corruption Whistleblower Program on July 2, 2018.

He said he alerted the FBI to the alleged overtime scheme in late spring 2019, and an agent said the bureau would determine if the state would manage the case because it was a civil rights issue affecting a protected class.

Peter Aseltine, public information officer for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, said, “We do not have any comment.”

Campbell said he also contacted the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in August 2019, but no one ever responded.

“Regarding the alleged ticket quota scheme, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” said Andrea Boulton, public information officer.

Campbell said North Brunswick court administrators stopped the ticket incentives around July 2018 after a Palisades Park police officer reported a similar situation there.

Campbell claimed even after that, there was an unwritten directive in North Brunswick to continue writing double-digit tickets per month – and officers were reminded throughout the month – in order to fund the e-ticket machines in patrol vehicles. Hence, the alleged targeting of minorities in border districts continued, he claimed.

Campbell decided to seek out Sarah Wallace of NBC News for a News 4 I-Team Exclusive and filmed a segment that aired in February, mostly speaking about ticket quotas and the targeting of minorities to meet those quotas, which he insists had been going on for roughly a decade.

Womack issued a statement on Feb. 14 in response to the TV segment.

“To say that in the United States driver profiling, targeting or ticket quotas in police departments never happened or doesn’t happen is disingenuous and would insult one’s intelligence. When anyone suggests that it is happening in North Brunswick, the allegations are taken seriously.

“I assure you, any allegation of impropriety – especially targeting, profiling and quotas – has never been a policy or acceptable practice of this administration or under Public Safety Director Kenneth McCormick or Deputy Chief Joseph Battaglia’s leadership.

“The township has recently worked directly with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office on this matter. Unlike other communities in New Jersey, our prosecutor’s office did not assume control of our department.

“On the contrary, the prosecutor’s office found no criminal behavior on the part of officers in our police department. Because of the prosecutor’s confidence in our capabilities and credibility, we were allowed to initiate our own internal affairs investigation. At that time, information was provided to the media who in turn pursued stories in other communities in addition to ours.

“While we understand one major network was to conclude its segment on this topic as of Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, I assure you we will continue to monitor the department and individual’s activities to ensure no resident or visitor is unjustly involved in a traffic stop. If anyone feels they have been treated unfairly by the North Brunswick Police Department, we encourage them to come forward because we investigate every civilian complaint,” Womack said.

After the NBC segment aired on Feb. 13, the township began a private investigation and issued a questionnaire on Feb. 17 regarding racism and alleged unlawful practices in town. Questions included: “Other than what you may have heard on NBC4 New York last week, do you have any knowledge of racial profiling by officers of the North Brunswick Police Department?” Or knowledge of ticket quotas? Or other officers speaking of racial profiling?

One question asked respondents, “Were you ever approached by Officer Michael Campbell to provide support for or information on racial profiling or ticket quotas in the North Brunswick Police Department? If so, set forth when and what information or support was sought from you.”

Campbell claimed officers had to handwrite the answers and return the questionnaire within 24 hours. He also said officers were uncomfortable and felt compelled to write the “right” i.e., accepted answers.

DeVeaux said, “According to Mayor Womack, after Officer Campbell made his allegations of racism in the department public, the administration committed to an independent investigation of those allegations.

“A law firm with no relation to the township decided independently to use a questionnaire as a tool of their investigation. Neither the administration nor the police department’s leadership had any input into the language of the questionnaire.

“The questionnaire was provided to officers who had autonomy as to how they chose to respond. The responding officers were instructed to seal their questionnaire in a provided envelope so no one in the township would know what was contained in their responses. The questionnaires that were returned to the independent investigator are being shared with the Middlesex County prosecutor,” DeVeaux said.

DeVeaux said the firm that conducted the independent survey was Appruzzese, McDermott, Mastro and Murphy. No one in the township’s administration or police department had any input to the development, conduct or conclusion of the investigative tools, and no one from town reviewed or approved it, he said.

Campbell also claimed other police officers were told to stay away from him because of his NBC interview. He said the PBA wanted to kick him out of the union. He said administrators wanted him to lose his job or go to jail instead of speaking the truth.

“These are the things that are being done to us all the time,” Campbell said. “I spoke out about it and they came after my job and tried to throw me in jail. … Us minorities in the department, we don’t stand a chance for nothing.”

DeVeaux expressed an opposing view on behalf of the township, saying, “More recently, the mayor, Township Council, and departmental leadership adopted a resolution stating they will remain committed to the morally, ethically and lawfully fair treatment of township residents, employees and visitors and will continue to take necessary steps to maintain policies and procedures to ensure that residents, employees and visitors have adequate channels of communication and processes to bring all matters that call into question the fair, impartial and just treatment of anyone without fear of retribution or reprisal.

“Mayor Womack went further and signed what is known as the Obama.org and My Brother’s Keeper Foundation Pledge for public safety accountability. The pledge’s four main principles are Review, Engage, Report and Reform matters of policing.

“The administration will keep residents informed of progress in those areas. The police department provides anyone exercising their First Amendment right with the necessary logistical support to ensure their personal safety and security of public and private property.

“An example is the Black Lives Matter demonstration of May 29. As Chief Battaglia observed, the demonstration was not anti-police, it was pro-justice and the department ensured all participants’ safety as they marched from the New Brunswick Middle School on Livingston Avenue to [North Brunswick] Township Hall on Hermann Road. The event was successfully coordinated with the New Brunswick Police Department as well as with the demonstration organizers,” DeVeaux said.

***

Yet Campbell said things are not as they seem, citing various calls he was on as examples of mistreatment of minorities.

He claimed officers will allege there is an odor of raw marijuana coming from a vehicle driven by minorities in order to conduct a car search; they will make a convincing argument over the police radio to justify a motor vehicle stop because a pretext for the search is legally required, but about 95% of the time no marijuana turns up, he said.

On the other hand, he claimed a group of white, North Brunswick student-athletes was pulled over in the parking lot of Judd Elementary School and let go even though a passenger pulled out marijuana; Campbell said the officers on scene claimed they did not smell or see anything.

Campbell said minority business owners along Livingston Avenue have told him customers will not shop there because they are afraid of getting pulled over when they leave the parking lot. There is also a warehouse on Jersey Avenue whose employees are primarily Latino, but who are scared to go to work, he said. He said this is because of officer intimidation.

And Campbell said he pulled over the same white woman several times for speeding and going through stop signs near Judd School, but was purportedly told by his superiors to “remember her face, remember her car” so he would stop pulling her over since she was well connected in town.

“I’m merely protecting the rights of the citizens,” he said. “Denying people’s civil rights is the theme happening right here.”

Campbell mentioned a White female and a Black male who were together at a convenience store. The male went inside to get milk for their children. When he came out, an officer who was purportedly racially profiling him ran his credentials and arrested him on a child support warrant – even though the man had proof he had paid the child support. The woman had to go home, get the receipt for the child support and bring it to police headquarters while the man remained locked up, Campbell claimed – even though the couple had no reason to be stopped in the first place, he said.

Campbell also spoke of a Spanish woman who went to get lunch meat for her children for school the following day; coming home, she was a block from her driveway, but an officer wrote her eight tickets and had her car towed, he alleged. Campbell said the woman could not pay rent and had to move out of town because of the expenses related to the incident.

“Where is the justice? This is what people are tired of. … Once you stop covering things up, maybe citizens will have trust in you,” he said. “Continuing the narrative of ‘an impeccable police department’ is a lie, as stated by the mayor in previous articles.”

Campbell said his experiences are in stark contrast to a resolution passed by the mayor and Township Council on June 1, and signed by the police chief and police director, which in part states, “The township takes great pride in its diversity and maintains an atmosphere of honor, respect and opportunity for every resident and visitor regardless of age, race, creed, religion, origin, sexual orientation or gender identification.

“… The North Brunswick Police Department is also committed to recruiting and developing a workforce that represents the diversity of the community it serves. … The North Brunswick mayor, Township Council and departmental leadership in no uncertain terms condemn the actions that led to the death of Mr. George Floyd … and will remain committed to the morally, ethically and lawfully fair treatment of township residents, employees and visitors … and will continue to take necessary steps, to maintain policies and procedures to ensure that residents, employees and visitors have adequate channels of communication and processes to bring all matters that call into question the fair, impartial and just treatment of anyone without fear of retribution or reprisal.”

Campbell said such statements are lip service and cater to members of the public who need to hear such statements at this time, but that his experiences during the past two decades prove otherwise.

***

Campbell also cited a case that potentially ended his 25-plus-year career in law enforcement. He claimed that in 2012 he was training another officer when the two were called to a motel.

Although they found no substantiated evidence in the room, his supervisor went back in, searched for 15 minutes and claimed an eyeglass case containing drugs was found in plain view, according to his allegations.

However, Campbell said that was a lie to frame an African American man, simply because his supervisor was racially intolerant. He said this supervisor would question every statement made by minorities and would ask for a criminal history of any victims who were minorities.

“There was nothing there. I was in the room. He lied,” Campbell said.

Campbell filed a lawsuit against the North Brunswick Police Department, the Township of North Brunswick and specific administrators in December 2018, claiming racial discrimination and bigotry, a hostile work environment, unwarranted transfer of position within the department, threats from citizens without backup from his fellow officers and unequal treatment. As of press time, the lawsuit is still pending.

Campbell said that during an interrogatory session for his lawsuit, counsel for the defendants noticed something mentioned about a room search and requested an investigation into the illegality of the matter.

On Nov. 28, 2019, Campbell acknowledges, he took it upon himself to go back to the room with his body camera to replicate the search. He had already contacted the attorney general’s office and the state’s ethics commission about the issue on Nov. 24.

He said his purpose was to recreate the scene as evidence for the state attorney general’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Instead, he said North Brunswick’s administration charged him with a policy violation because he used department-issued equipment on his own.

They filed a complaint with the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) claiming official misconduct for using the equipment for personal use. Campbell maintains this was not for personal use as he was allowed to collect evidence for the attorneys general.

On Feb. 13, 2020, Campbell was notified by the prosecutor’s office of the charges related to prohibited activity while on duty, use of body worn cameras and misuse of public property, including motor vehicles.

The accompanying letter signed by Assistant Prosecutor Christine M. D’Elia, section chief of the Special Investigations Unit of the MCPO, states that the Professional Standards Unit of the MCPO completed its review that was brought forth from the North Brunswick Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit, and “although it is clear you were not authorized to investigate an internal affairs matters, which was the alleged subject of your conduct, the state will not be handing (sic) this matter criminally. Upon conclusion of our criminal investigation this week, we are now proceeding administratively.”

Thus, he was cleared of official misconduct.

If convicted, Campbell said he could have faced a sentence of five years in jail, loss of job and loss of pension. He strongly believes he was targeted because he had filed the lawsuit in 2018.

A March 2 follow-up letter signed by D’Elia sustains that Campbell was not authorized to gather evidence for an internal affairs investigation, especially one that was considered closed since 2012, and that all applicable charges remained.

However, Campbell claims the police chief tried to add additional civil service charges that the prosecutor’s office did not determine, in an effort to terminate him. He said the lawyers found those charges to be unauthorized.

“I spoke about civil rights violations to a minority and they try to get me for official misconduct,” Campbell said, noting the irony that the same prosecutor’s office that would not investigate his claims of a ticket scheme was now charging him with high-level crimes.

“When [North Brunswick police administrators] realized it was not official misconduct, I was charged with a policy violation to which the administration added additional charges to what the prosecutor’s office had.

“Those additional charges for civil service were unauthorized because the department did not investigate the policy violations. They added charges from the civil service to make it seem like the prosecutors charged me with them.

“They did the additional unauthorized charges to try and justify their attempt to fire me since I was not charged with official misconduct, which they wanted. I would have been fired and charged, which is punishable by up to five years in jail, all because I spoke and documented a civil rights violation on my body camera.

“They claim the department does not have racism; this was one big one they tried to cover up at the Farrington Inn, which is on that [alleged arrest quota] form regarding certain amounts of arrest and searches.

“The plan was to fire me and take away my pension and my earned hours that I saved, which they also had no authority to do. The administration wanted to silence me at all costs. Knowing how persistent they were trying to find ways to charge me with high crimes to get me fired and locked up, I decided to retire before I intended to,” Campbell said.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said, on July 15, that “no criminal charges have been levied against North Brunswick Patrolman Michael Campbell,” according to Boulton.

Campbell said his suspension of 60 days was subsequently lowered to 15 days, but the situation ultimately forced him to retire earlier than he had planned, and he had to use 1,500 hours of vacation time for the suspension.

On May 1, 2020, Campbell had 25 years and nine months on the job; 18 years of which were in North Brunswick after he initially worked in Irvington. That was after the police department added a charge on April 20 – which he said he did not receive until April 30, the day before his retirement – for speaking to the media [NBC] in February.

“I already knew in February I was no longer safe here. I knew other officers were told to stay away from me,” he said. “They wanted to punish me and send a message to other officers: don’t report nothing because this is what’s going to happen to you.

“I was not ready to retire. They threatened me too many times, with charges against me, with jail time,” he said.

He said he believes that although he is protected under the Whistleblower Act, the charges were a round-about form of retaliation for his NBC interview.

“Minority officers there see it, but they are not talking about it because they have years to go on the job and it’s career suicide,” Campbell said. “No matter what I try to do to balance things, they unbalance it and then I’m a target. … Getting rid of me gets rid of the lawsuit.”

DeVeaux said, “Neither the mayor nor Chief Battaglia can comment on the personnel matter. … With respect to his retirement, Officer Campbell’s retirement was voluntary.”

***

Aside from being on the job, Campbell said his own civil rights are constantly violated.

He said that as he was driving through Milltown, Old Bridge and East Brunswick on his way home from work, he would be pulled over nearly every night. He said officers would make the excuse he was speeding, though he used cruise control; that he was crossing the double yellow line; and that his car was reported stolen – until they realized he was a police officer and then they would let him go.

He said this behavior affected him as an officer and a minority, because people without a police officer’s badge would be subject to harassment, a car search, tickets and possibly even arrest in such a situation.

He said he was so taken aback by the situations that he pursued his doctorate in Public Policy and Administration with his dissertation on African American male police officers’ perceptions of being racially profiled.

 

***

Reacting to the deaths of George Floyd and other innocent minorities who have been killed, Campbell said he visualized these things years ago, but was mocked.

“These injustices are happening today. They have been happening for months.

“I feel like what is happening, though what I’ve experienced has not resulted in death … it’s a violation of my civil rights because I feel like I’m reliving all this … since I complained about the injustice,” he said. “It’s the injustice we are tired of … people die because of another person’s injustice. … It’s not just in Minnesota, it’s everywhere.”

Campbell quickly noted he has never seen excessive force used by any North Brunswick officer. He said police officers sometimes, in a general sense – not in North Brunswick – intend to inflict punishment, but they do not intend to cause death.

He said his particular issue with his department is focused on motor vehicle stops and report taking and ticket writing from a harassment point of view.

He said those actions are just as bad, because the people who are charged with violations have to pay fines, deal with stress and potentially lose job opportunities from charges that were falsely brought forward.

“It falls under discrimination of the citizens, Black and Brown,” Campbell said.

 

***

Campbell said a lot of issues with police officers stem from training. He said in the police academy, you are taught to cover yourself. He said you are taught to write “I was in fear of my life” with an explanation in reports where violence escalates because a grand jury will rarely return an indictment after hearing that.

He said the mentality is that it is “better to be tried by 12 than carried by six” and “a dead man can’t testify against you.”

He claimed modern day training includes yelling out, “Stop resisting!” even though sometimes the person is already unconscious; he said cell phone videos and patrol cameras don’t always show the correct angles so all you hear is audio without visual proof. Or, he said, officers will purposely turn their cameras away from the scene.

“We are taught to lie in our police reports and officers are taught to lie to protect you,” he said.

He also said many officers say lines to the effect of, “I am unaware, this is the first time I am hearing this” so they don’t have liability.

Campbell called it “creative writing” since a supervisor will not sign off on a report until that report reduces potential liabilities.

“All reports are reviewed by an officer’s supervisor. Reports may be edited for substance, but not content. All drafts, revisions and edits are tracked by the supervisor. The integrity of the department demands that all officers adhere to their oath and prepare reports that are honest and accurate,” DeVeaux said.

Campbell said dating back to 2016 he offered his own diversity training options to department directors; he said a course was then offered from a third party company, but fellow officers then avoided answering a question on the associated questionnaire about whether harassment and racism exist in the police department.

He also said he recommended a company which screens new hires for unconscious bias in an email dated Aug. 1, 2016; he said he was ignored.

“We are not certain of the timeline, but when Officer Campbell’s initial concerns were made known to the department and the township, those concerns were taken seriously,” DeVeaux said.

“In fact, much of what Officer Campbell voiced was related to how he was received by citizens. It was not until the time of his television interview [in February 2020] that Officer Campbell’s dissatisfaction with fellow officers came to light. Diversity training is part of the police department’s regimen and is not a unique suggestion from Officer Campbell,” DeVeaux said.

DeVeaux clarified that the focus of training has been and continues to be largely dictated by the high profile events of the time.

“Earlier in the decade, allotted training time was geared towards active shooter scenarios in schools. As time progressed, state guidance for diversity training, i.e. race and gender related or oriented training, suggested formal training every three years. The township’s department, however, did consecutive years of diversity training in 2017 and 2018. The training was conducted online through a state supported program. There’s no recollection of a test, evaluation or questionnaire at the conclusion of the program. Since that time, the mayor and departmental leadership have been working to develop or identify additional suitable diversity and related training opportunities,” he said.

***

To move forward and effect change, Campbell said police reform is needed, first and foremost.

“The frustration is there with the minorities. We are tired. … Multiply that by every state across the country and there is animosity towards police,” he said.

He said officials across the country generally say they will do something immediately, play on that for a few months, but then six months later something else happens and the original cause is forgotten.

“Politicians start coming out and talking about it in the heat of the moment and then fade away,” he said. “Do you want to make change or do you want to suppress change?”

Police have to redo their training, he said, and they can’t hide behind the “blue wall of silence.”

“Until we stop doing things so undercover, things are never going to change,” he said.

During a community discussion hosted by New Destiny Family Worship Center on June 5, Police Chief Joseph Battaglia said, “Here in North Brunswick there is no ‘blue shield’ and I can tell you most of our discipline comes from within. … These guys, they are professionals, and when they step out of line, we step them back and we do what we have to do.

“If we have to terminate somebody, we do it; if we have to discipline somebody, we do it. And I stress to my men that you are just as bad as the criminals if you stand by and watch an officer do what they did in Minnesota and don’t act. You are just as culpable,” he said.

Battaglia said North Brunswick was one of the first police departments to implement the use of body cameras and patrol car cameras. He said every complaint is reviewed, the video is watched and it is addressed up the chain of command.

He also said he implemented the policy that if there is a consent to search on the street, a supervisor must go to the scene and ensure the patrol officer has probable cause to search.

The North Brunswick Police Department is accredited, meaning law enforcement executives visited the department and examined all aspects of the department, such as reports, files, policy, procedures, administration, operations, investigations and support services to ensure the department met more than 500 standards. They conducted interviews with sworn and civilian employees of the department, spoke with residents and hosted open forums for community feedback.

Achievement of simultaneous accreditation demonstrates the police department meets the highest standards in law enforcement. The benefits of accreditation include greater effectiveness and efficiency, reduced liability, improved community relations and greater accountability.

DeVeaux said, “As Chief Battaglia shares, a motto in the North Brunswick Police Department is ‘Every day is a training day.’ In addition to the excessive force training conducted at least four times a year, there is additional training focused on high liability/low frequency events, e.g., high-speed pursuits, conducted at different times in the year.”

On another note, Campbell said leaders must listen to those who speak out and not ostracize those who come forward.

“The police administration needs to stop the practice of saying, ‘I will never take the words of a patrolman over my supervisors,’ even if the supervisor is wrong,” he said.

Campbell also said a way must be determined to bridge the gap between police and the community.

“Society, from the police department to the citizens, has to change their ways,” he said. “This is going to continue if police administration doesn’t listen to fellow officers speaking out.”

Outside of the police department, Campbell also said there is an intra-racial issue, with the killings of minorities by minorities every day. He said children are sleeping at home when a stray bullet flies through a window. Or, he mentioned Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, who was beaten to death by a mob in a bodega in the Bronx in June 2018.

“Intra-racial issues need to be addressed. Some of these same hooligans … are doing this because they are idlers. They just want to see chaos. … For them it’s sensational. You have your decent protests, but don’t burn things down. … Don’t target others and don’t target the police – that person didn’t do it to you,” he said.

He said change starts in the home.

“In minority communities, parents need to put aside their frustrations and police their own kids,” he said.

He said parents must teach respect and consideration of police, teach their children right and wrong, and teach them not to put themselves in illegal positions. This may help to reduce intra-racial crimes, he said.

He also said schools should be teaching students civil law so people know their rights.

“We’ve got to change from the home to the school to the police department to municipal government to local government to state government,” Campbell said. “Until police administration listens to police officers and until the police officers speak up for what’s right, it’s going to continue for decades and decades and decades and is not going to change.”

***

Speaking from his own personal experience of injustice and frustration, Campbell still condemned the looting and rioting that has been taking place in the wake of Floyd’s death.

“I am frustrated, but I don’t go and be destructive and attack police officers,” he said. “Do your protests, make your signs, say what you have to say, but stop vandalizing, stop threatening the lives of others, especially police officers, they didn’t do this to you. … These businesses did nothing to you. They support the community.

“I’m afraid for the officers’ safety and I am afraid for the citizens,” he said.

“Places are burning down because we fail to act and speak out. … We are going to get our own officers killed. … They [rioters] don’t care what color you are, they see the uniform and they see the uniform as a representation of a person who is going to kill you.

“Violence is not the answer. Black lives matter, as all lives matter.”

***

As of June 2020, of the North Brunswick Police Department’s 84 officers, with an additional seven special officers who are assigned to township schools, the breakdown of minority/female officers is 10 Hispanics, nine African Americans, three Greek Orthodox, two Asians, one Asian/Indian, and one Egyptian; and five females, according to DeVeaux.

“Currently, the department adheres to New Jersey’s Civil Service rules for hiring. The administration and the department are reviewing the hiring process. Once a year, a police officer’s civil service exam is administered by the state.

“Candidates are ranked by their score on the exam. The township most recently hired three officers. Two officers have prior experience with neighboring departments and the third officer is Latina and is a North Brunswick resident,” DeVeaux said.

Although there were a few police officers whose voices were disguised during the NBC interview in February, no one would go on the record with the Sentinel to confirm or deny racism in the police department, the existence of a ticket scam/quid pro quo, or the racial profiling of citizens.

However, a former senior public telecommunicator shared her experiences while working at the North Brunswick Police Department.

Darleen Farrell was a dispatcher from September 2006 until she quit in May 2017 – a day she vividly remembers as she said she walked out mid-shift because officers had arrested a wanted man from Pennsylvania and her supervisor wanted her to put unauthorized notes in her call log.

She explained that when a person calls the police department, the dispatcher puts in his or her notes what the caller says so an officer does not go to a scene blindly. However, if a dispatcher did not take the call, he or she would not have knowledge of what was said. Farrell alleged she was asked to include information she did not receive herself.

“I wouldn’t say I was disrespected every day, but I felt like it a lot of days,” she said. “I was told, ‘You’re just a dispatcher.’ … You’re putting your life in my hands by giving me correct information, but you’re turning around and acting like I’m dumb.”

She said on that fateful day, her supervisor used expletives toward her because she resisted writing untruths, and she decided to take her keys off her keychain, put her swipe card on her desk and walk out.

“You are trying to get things done there and everyone turns a blind eye,” she said, saying people were expected to do what they were told, no matter what.

DeVeaux said, “Mayor Womack is unaware of any dispatcher falsifying call logs. As he says, if he were presented with allegations of misconduct, an investigation would immediately be launched into the matter and the individual(s) involved would be disciplined, including possible termination.

“According to Chief Battaglia, no dispatcher to his knowledge ever made false entries into the call log. A dispatcher may only enter information provided by the caller and responding officer. There are instances where an officer’s notes may be entered into the log. Supervisors may randomly inspect notes. Dispatchers do not write reports,” he said.

As full disclosure, Farrell’s former father-in-law was and her former brother-in-law is a police officer in North Brunswick.

Farrell clarified that “there were a lot of very nice guys I worked with … but anywhere you work there’s going to be one or two bad apples. … Certain individuals most certainly [are racist] … but not every single officer.”

Farrell, who is White, confirmed Campbell’s accusations of racially targeted motives, noting there would be “surges” in certain developments in town.

She claimed a popular surge was at the former Oak Leaf Village, now the Crescent Apartments, near Route 27, on Friday and Saturday nights, when officers would reportedly go in groups to see what they could find. She said the neighborhood used to be predominately Black, lower income and Section 8 housing residents.

“I have no problem taking drugs off the street … but just because you know this area has a higher population of minorities … they would be there for two to three hours trying to find whatever they could find,” she said.

She also said the Krauszer’s convenience store on Livingston Avenue, which sells alcohol, was a popular place to scout out after midnight.

“I’m the one who would have to run the people’s names,” she said. “If your skin color wasn’t really white [you were targeted] … but you’re a White North Brunswick resident? ‘Have a nice day sir’ and they let you on your merry way.

“They say ‘no, no, no,’ but they are 100% racially profiling. But if you’re African American or Hispanic, they were going to try to jam you up as much as possible,” she claims.

Farrell described it as “a witch hunt.”

“There was a mentality of, ‘This is my town and you don’t belong here and I’m going to clean it up,’ ” she alleged.

DeVeaux reiterated there is no policy of “hunting” anyone, especially minorities.

“Targeted enforcement is not race-based. Targeted enforcement is based on several factors, including resident complaints, frequency of illegal activity, and hazardous conditions like frequency of accidents.

“… Chief Battaglia is proud of the department’s community policing efforts. In areas where there were higher call rates for illegal activities, the department instituted additional walking patrols – not just driving patrols – so officers could interact with residents. The community policing model was implemented in several neighborhoods. The model was not race-based,” DeVeaux said.

However, Farrell said certain officers would return from a call and brag about how many tickets they wrote – sometimes 15 or 20 to one person – and usually to a minority.

“That’s overkill, unless [the person] just murdered someone,” she said.

As a matter of procedure for a supposed traffic violation, Farrell said an officer would call into Dispatch with a location and license plate number. She would have to check the information of the driver. Then she would close out the call with a ticket or a warning per the direction of the responding officer.

If the person was arrested, she would check their name, date of birth and driver’s license. If there was a warrant out for that person already, she would share that information.

If the person was pulled over for suspected DWI, she would have to input the numbers for the Breathalyzer.

But Farrell alleged that during motor vehicle stops involving a minority individual, she would oftentimes also be asked to do a criminal history check – which is illegal unless the person is under arrest.

She said she would also be asked to run the information of all the occupants of a vehicle; only the driver is supposed to hand over his or her license. She claimed officers would also ask for information that had nothing to do with what the person was being stopped for.

“There were a lot of things not done the way they were supposed to be done,” she said. “If there was more than one person in that car, every single person was getting run.”

DeVeaux responded, “[N]o one is given preferential or adverse treatment based on race. Criminal history checks are only done in conjunction with an active investigation. An active investigation has a corresponding investigation number.”

However, Farrell maintained this played into the quid pro quo ticket scheme, which she said she was aware of. She said at one time, for a period of about two months, officers would not write a single ticket because their court overtime was being limited; for example, instead of receiving four hours pay, they would only receive a half-hour.

Farrell said records show high numbers when the court clerk, who did the overtime scheduling, provided the extra court sessions.

On a more positive note, Farrell said she did not feel discriminated against as a female. She also said she did not deal much with the police department’s administration. She said there were tough days, but overall she did not consider the police department to be a hostile work environment.

And she said she was not aware of any directives of an arrest quota.

“It’s a shame a few bad apples are ruining it for a lot of great guys there,” she said. “And, you made a good cop retire,” she said, referring to Campbell.

***

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.

 

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