NJ says Clark police chief, sergeant should be fired for ‘deeply troubling’ acts
🚨 NJ's AG says troubling findings warrant immediate termination of Clark cops
🚨 Officials are out with a 43-page report detailing years-long investigation
🚨 Despite the findings, no charges have been filed
New Jersey's top law enforcement official is calling for the immediate termination of Clark's police chief and a sergeant in charge of the police department's internal affairs operations.
But no criminal charges are being filed against the pair.
The Office of the Attorney General on Monday released a 43-page report detailing an investigation into allegations of abhorrent language, self dealing, cover-ups, racist habits, and internal affairs abuses that had been reported to be going on for years among leaders in the force.
"The state has interviewed numerous witnesses, reviewed thousands of records and hundreds of recordings, and conducted a comprehensive audit of the department's practices," Attorney General Matthew Platkin said during a news conference.
Power of the police department has been in the hands of the Union County Prosecutor's Office since July 2020, following a series of events that started with an anonymous tip that a Clark police officer was being paid for a no-show job and the police chief, Pedro Matos, was covering it up, the Attorney General's Office said.
An investigation found, among other things, that Matos repeatedly failed to forward allegations of wrongdoing to the county prosecutor's office.
"He failed to investigate serious allegations of misconduct of some of his officers, and he did not hold himself to the same level of accountability and transparency as he did with the men in his charge," Platkin said. "And I say men because at the time ... CPD did not have a single female officer in its ranks."
Investigators also uncovered the use of racist, sexist, and antisemitic slurs — when discussing hiring practices and police actions — by Matos, as well as the mayor of Clark, and Sgt. Joseph Teston, who headed the internal affairs unit.
Teston, while on administrative leave related to prior violations, was arrested in April 2022 for hitting an unarmed stranger in the head with a glass bottle outside a sports stadium in New York and then fleeing the scene, the report says.
Platkin can recommend the firing of police officials, but the ultimate decision would be made by a township official.
Platkin is calling on the township to designate an independent individual who does not suffer a conflict of interest — Platkin on Monday announced that Clark Mayor Salvatore Bonaccorso is newly charged with official misconduct and tampering offenses in connection with a private landscaping business he was allegedly running with municipal resources.
New Jersey 101.5 has not yet received comment from the mayor's office or the Clark Police Department.
No charges for Clark police officials
While much of the information uncovered during the lengthy investigation was "deeply troubling," Platkin said, criminal charges against Clark police officials are not being pursued at this time. That could change if additional evidence is uncovered in the future.
"The ability to draw the kind of definitive conclusions necessary to support criminal charges was rendered impossible by deficiencies in available data and retention of video evidence," Platkin said.
Arrest data, for example, showed that 52% of adults arrested in Clark from 2017 through half of 2020 were white, and 44% were Black, while white people made up 93% of the town's population, and Black people represented 2% of the town's population.
But these figures couldn't amount to criminal charges for racist policing, Platkin said, because there was a lack of reliable data on the race and ethnicity of people visiting, and not living in, Clark.
Still, the findings have been referred to other offices in the state, including the Division on Civil Rights, for potential further action against the law enforcement officials in question.
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