Prior arrest record raises questions about newly hired Union City police officer

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A prior arrest record that includes two convictions, one for disorderly conduct in 2009 and another for driving while intoxicated in 2015, raises questions about a new Union City cop who was hired this year.

Inset photo of Union City Police Officer Mauricio Garces. Screenshot of Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Back on August 8th, 2009, when Maurcio Garces was 20 years old, he was arrested for disorderly conduct for allegedly interfering with a police investigation into a possible low level domestic dispute, according to a copy of the police report.

“The fight apparently concluded prior to my arrival. I was unable to identify the female due to an extremely disorderly individual alongside of her who was cursing and speaking loudly at her to not get involved with the police,” Officer Mauro Astudillo wrote at the time.

” … Then this individual began to curse and said: ‘what the f***.’ After several attempts to calm this individual down which was unsuccessful I approached him, ushered him against a vehicle and place him under arrest for disorderly conduct.”

While Astudillo also wrote that Garces impeded the investigation, he was transported to police headquarters without incident.

Almost exactly six years later, August 22nd, 2015, Garces was arrested for driving while intoxicated after an officer told him he could not double park in front of an address on New York Avenue.

That police report indicates that upon receiving those instructions, he turned around and double parked his car again, this time on the opposite side of the street.

He had trouble maintaining his balance while performing the field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol content to be 0.22 percent, the report says.

Despite these issues, in New Jersey, there are no guidelines that prevent individuals with prior non-felony convictions from working in local law enforcement.

However, Robert Cowan, a former Jersey City police chief who now runs Cowan Investigations, still said the hire should not have happened.

“… Proper hiring practices by the hiring authority would have disqualified this candidate because of the aforementioned convictions in his history,” he said.

“Best practices would have the hiring authority proceed considering other candidates on the civil service hiring list who did not have such a checkered history in their past, a history which could be predictive of future problems in his employment.”

Cowan also said that hiring someone under such circumstances can potentially become a liability for the city in the future should any private citizen ever file a lawsuit alleging improper actions by the officer.

Garces was one of seven officers hired under Police Chief Nichelle Luster during a January 2nd ceremony, according to a Facebook post by the Union City Police Department.

Luster and a city spokeswoman did not return emails seeking comment.

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