The new “major discipline” police database compiled by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office lists 22 officers from Hudson County, with seven from Jersey City and six from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The AG’s Office defines major discipline as being terminated, demoted, or suspended for more than five days.
Out of the seven members of the Jersey City Police Department, three were ranking officers, according to the data provided by the AG’s Office.
Lt. Michael Timmins was suspended for 90 days, effective as of June 15th, 2020, “for violating JCPD Rules and Regulations for[:] Conduct, Mishandling of a Firearm, Intoxicants Off Duty. Lt. Timmins negligently discharged a firearm while off duty and on his personal property.”
While that description is vague, the JCPD’s annual Internal Affairs Unit report says that the officer, who was anonymous at the time due to the confidential nature of their reports, “negligently” fired his service weapon while off-duty after consuming six to eight beers.
He was arrested by New Jersey State Police troopers and subsequently placed in a pre-trial intervention program, the IAU report states.
Additionally, Lt. Daniel Coyle was suspended for 20 days of accrued time on November 11th of last year after being charged with driving while intoxicated.
Police Officer Gicella Sanchez, the 12th JCPD member to plead guilty to off-duty detail fraud, was one of three Jersey City police officers that were terminated last year.
As for the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, Investigator Paul Newman was fired for driving on agency vehicle while his license was suspended in more than instance, while Officer Jasmine Cruz was suspended for 90 days for “divulging the contents of a court proceeding” to a party that was not present in the courtroom.
Furthermore, the Hudson County Department of Corrections saw three officers suspended 10 days or less, while Officer Aida Ortiz was suspended 133 days for getting her driver’s license suspended three times between March 2016 and August 2019.
In Union City, Special Police Officer Onofrio Altizio was suspended for 60 days after taking a police vehicle without authorization and striking a pedestrian. He was deemed to be at fault for the crash.
Additionally, Lt. Sergio DeRojas was suspended for eight days by the UCPD after he “utilized passcodes not belonging to him to modify a police incident report.”
Finally, the East Newark, Guttenberg, and Hoboken Police Departments all issued major disciplined for one officer each, with Guttenberg Police Sgt. Leonard Ramirez serving an ongoing paid suspension for 494 days and counting.
Their most recent IAU annual report indicated that the then-anonymous sergeant was caught “failing to supervise and properly report an arrest that included use-of-force.”
This, and several of the other aforementioned incidents, were detailed in a HCV review of IAU annual reports published back in June.
Attorney General Law Enforcement Director No. 2021-6 was enacted by then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled he could release the names of disciplined cops from June 2020 forward.
“Today, New Jersey takes an important step forward, joining the majority of U.S. states that disclose the identities of law enforcement officers found responsible for engaging in serious disciplinary violations,” Acting AG Andrew Bruck said in a statement.
“We are releasing this information not to shame or embarrass individual officers, but to provide the same type of transparency and accountability in policing that New Jersey mandates in other essential professions.”
He continued that while most law enforcement officers “serve the public with honor an integrity,” this was a necessary step to promote professional and build greater public trust between the public and law enforcement.
Public records attorney CJ Griffin, a partner at law firm Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, wrote on her blog that the example of Timmins and others from the JCPD shows that the AG directive doesn’t do enough and is yet another reason internal affairs records need to be public.
“These disclosures are exposing how police departments will easily evade the very little transparency that AG Directive 2020-5 provides to the public,” she wrote.
“We find Jersey City Police Department’s major discipline report to be very troubling and indicative of what is almost certainly a larger problem: police departments being purposely vague and misleading in their disclosures now that they have to include officer names.”