The Union County Prosecutor’s Office has assumed oversight of the Linden Police Department’s internal affairs functions and also implemented a new countywide directive in response to the completion of a Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Professional Standards Unit review of the facts and circumstances regarding the employment and discipline of former Linden Police Officer Pedro Abad, Jr., acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Friday.
The review, which was conducted by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at the request of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General in order to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest, revealed no criminal conduct by individuals involved in investigations into separate alcohol-related motor vehicle incidents involving Abad. These included a January 2011 incident in Roselle for which charges against Abad were ultimately administratively dismissed and a February 2013 incident in Rahway that resulted in Abad being charged and pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated and refusal of a breathalyzer test.
However, the review did highlight deficiencies in the Linden Police Department’s internal affairs investigations regarding discipline of Abad associated with the aforementioned motor vehicle incidents. In addition, the review revealed several areas in which policy improvements could be made, Park explained. As a result, the following actions were taken:
First, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office moved to exercise increased oversight of Linden Police Department internal affairs functions; Linden Police Chief James Schulhafer was notified in late December 2015 that, effective immediately and continuing until further notice, this oversight would include comprehensive review of all major disciplinary investigations, findings, and penalties, as well as a regular review of all open internal affairs cases eligible for significant discipline, with intervention on any individual matter to occur on a case-by-case basis.
Second, the Prosecutor’s Office issued a directive put into effect this week requiring all municipal police departments to notify the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit immediately upon receipt of information that any officer has any pending municipal court complaint involving a disorderly persons offense, petty disorderly persons offense, municipal ordinance violation, or driving while intoxicated charge (Attorney General guidelines already mandate immediate notification to the Prosecutor’s Office when any officer is charged with an indictable criminal offense).
Finally, starting in May 2015, the Roselle Police Department, under the leadership of Police Chief Gerard Orlando, established more comprehensive policies and procedures governing the preservation, retention, and transfer to appropriate prosecutors of certain forms of evidence in disorderly persons, motor vehicle, and criminal cases.
“This review revealed that there is a clear need for our Office to oversee the internal affairs functions of the Linden Police Department. We believe that this will only help the Department become stronger in its enforcement of professional standards,” Prosecutor Park said. “In addition, the implementation of the new countywide directive mandating notification will ensure that there is enhanced oversight, fairness, and consistency over any issues that arise regarding our police officers.”