April 3, 2013
Hon. Gary Baldwin, Council President
Borough of Tinton Falls
556 Tinton Ave
Tinton Falls, NJ, 07724
RE: Police Internal Affairs Complaint
Dear Council President Baldwin:
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Police Accountability Project and intend this e-mail to be our Internal Affairs Complaint against “Officer Schuler” (presumably Officer Joseph M. Schuler) of the Tinton Falls Police Department.
I realize that I am supposed to file such complaints with the Tinton Falls Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit, but the police department’s Internet site provides no information on internal affairs complaints nor does it identify the internal affairs contact person. Accordingly, I am sending my complaint to you.
Would you please a) forward this e-mail to the proper person within the police department and b) encourage the police department to give the public, through its web site, at least basic information about its internal affairs unit or function? In its Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures Manual, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) cites the importance of the internal affairs function, referring to it as “an important means of protecting the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the citizens of this State.” (p. 3) Given the DCJ’s stated view, I think that you will agree that internal affairs deserves at least a mention on the Borough’s web site.
Nature of Complaint:
According to the Appellate Division’s decision in State v. Idivine Clark, Docket No. A-3977-10T4 (on-line here), motorist Idivine Clark was stopped for driving without a seatbelt and detained for a while because police smelled an odor of raw marijuana coming from Clark’s car. After Clark refused to consent to a search of the vehicle, the vehicle was impounded until a search warrant was obtained approximately two days later. Although Clark was not arrested on the day of the stop, Officer Schuler conducted a warrantless search and seized $866 in cash he found on Clarks’s person.
In deciding Clark’s motion to suppress the $866, Judge Daniel M. Waldman and a two-judge Appellate panel both found no justification for Schuler’s search of Clark and seizure of the cash.
The only possible justification I can find for Schuler’s warrantless search is if he patted Clark down to ensure his own personal safety, felt a bulge or protrusion and mistakenly believed it was a weapon. But, it doesn’t seem likely that $866 in cash, especially if it was in large denominations, would create enough of a bulge to warrant any further search. Accordingly, we would like for the internal affairs unit to investigate the factual circumstances upon which Schuler based his decision to search and determine if it was reasonable.
If you find that Schuler’s search was unreasonable and that he, despite having received adequate training and direction regarding warrantless searches, elected to ignore his training, we ask that you discipline him. Otherwise, we ask that your department review and, if necessary, supplement your training requirements in this area of the law.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Very truly yours,
John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party
Police Accountability Project
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ 08875-5424
Phone: 732-873-1251 – Fax: 908-325-0129