On February 7, 2022, I filed the following Internal Affairs complaint against three New Jersey State Police Detectives.
New Jersey State Police
Office of Professional Standards
Intake and Adjudication Bureau
P.O. Box 7068
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0068
via e-mail only to OPSIntakeUnit@NJSP.org
Dear Sir or Madam:
Please accept this e-mail as my complaint against Detective Carlos Estevez and, to a lesser degree, Detective Sergeant James Sansone and Detective Kartik Birudaraju. The facts related to the February 20, 2016 stop of Jeffrey Van Queen are set out in a February 7, 2022 Appellate Division decision, which is on-line here. The motor vehicle stop led to Van Queen’s arrest and ultimate plea to a weapons offense which caused him to be sentenced to seven years in prison with a three and one-half year parole disqualifier.
The Appellate panel vacated Van Queen’s conviction because, the words of the opinion, Estevez’s basis for stopping Van Queen’s vehicle “indicates a hunch and did not amount to objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion justifying an investigatory stop.” According to the court’s opinion, “Estevez’s decision to stop [Van Queen’s] car was based entirely on the report from Sansone and Birudaraju of ‘a black male coming out of a residence who appeared . . . to have a rifle in his possession.'” Sansone and Birudaraju didn’t inform Estevez of the type of vehicle that Van Queen was driving. The only information Estevez had when he made his decision to stop Van Queen was that a “black male” was driving a car in the direction indicated.
The court also found that the only reason why Sansone and Birudaraju were interested in Van Queen was because of the type of duffle bag he was carrying, the way he was carrying it and how “nervous” and “suspicious” he appeared (i.e. looking up and down a one-way street” and “looking in all directions” when he returned to his home. The court found that “[a] duffle bag lends itself to carrying a lot of things . . . [t]hat is the nature of a duffle bag.” The court also found that looking around a one-way street and carrying a duffel bag with two hands is not sufficiently suspicious enough to warrant a reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior.
So, in sum, Van Queen’s life has been turned upside down and thousands of dollars in attorney fees and court resources have been wasted due to Estevez’s decision to stop a vehicle based on no more than a hunch. I would like Estevez (and, to lesser extent Sansone and Birudaraju) disciplined.
Very truly yours,
John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Police Accountability Project