The primary function of the Internal Affairs Unit at the South Orange Police Department is to receive, review, investigate, and resolve all allegations of misconduct that originate with members of the community or are generated by supervisors, officers, or employees of a law enforcement agency. Misconduct could include commission of a crime or an offense, violation of departmental rules and regulations, violation of New Jersey Civil Service statutes, and or conduct which adversely reflects upon the officer or the South Orange Police Department.
The South Orange Police Department is committed to a robust internal affairs process and as such will accept complaints from those that wish to remain anonymous. Complaints may be taken by any police officer 24 hours a day. While we encourage the public to make complaints in person with a police supervisor, no one will be told to come back and make a complaint at a different time due to a supervisor not being immediately present. The Department will also accept complaints via other means including but not limited to telephone, email, regular mail, etc.
All complaints that the Internal Affairs Unit receives that are criminal in nature are forwarded to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office (ECPO) for review. The ECPO conducts a review and determines if it should pursue a criminal investigation. A criminal investigation may result in criminal charges, determined according to the criteria of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. If the ECPO proposes criminal charges they will be the lead agency for the matter until its conclusion in court. A disposition that does not involve a finding of guilt by the courts or where a complaint is dismissed by a municipal or county prosecutor means the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt has not been met.
The county prosecutor will then return the matter back to the Internal Affairs Unit at South Orange Police Department for investigation into any alleged administrative (Department rules, Civil Service rules, ECPO/NJ Attorney General directives) violations. The purpose of the investigation being to determine whether or not evidence exists or can be developed that meets the preponderance of evidence burden of proof in an administrative hearing. At no time shall an internal affairs administrative investigation be closed simply because a criminal investigation was declined or terminated.
The following are possible dispositions of an administrative investigation:
- Sustained – The investigation provided sufficient evidence to prove the allegation and the actions of the officer violated provisions of the rules and regulations or agency procedures, orders or directives.
- Not Sustained – The investigation failed to provide sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation.
- Unfounded – The alleged incident did not occur.
- Exonerated – The alleged incident did occur but the actions of the officer were justified, legal and proper.
A complainant will be advised of the outcome of an internal affairs investigation if they have chosen to identify themselves.
During an administrative hearing, if the hearing officer sustains the charges against a South Orange Police Officer, the South Orange Police Officer is subject to the following progressive discipline:
- Oral reprimand or performance notice
- Written reprimand
- Monetary fine
- Suspension with or without pay
- Loss of promotional opportunity
- Discharge from employment
As is the case with all individuals, both the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the South Orange Police Department are committed to the strict observance of a person’s constitutional and due process rights during both the criminal and internal affairs process.
In addition, South Orange Police Officers have a duty to report to Internal Affairs and Chief of Police, certain matters they are involved in or have a reasonable belief that another employee may have committed. These include:
- An arrest or criminal charge
- A civil suit alleging racial bias, physical violence, or threats of physical violence
- Allegations of commission of acts of domestic violence
- Prohibited discrimination
- An unreasonable use of force
- A threat to use unreasonable force
- A constitutional violation
- Failure to follow internal affairs reporting/documentation requirements
- Providing false information to an internal affairs investigator
- Providing false information in any other official matter
- Violations discovered during a supervisory review of work performance
- Retaliation against any employee for reporting misconduct
Internal Affairs prepares and submit regular reports regarding ongoing and completed investigations to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office - Professional Standards Bureau, which oversees all Internal Affairs units in the County. In addition, per Attorney General policy, Internal Affairs publishes an annual summary report available to the public which provides a synopsis of the types of complaints and their dispositions.