Wyckoff's chief of police says an ACLU report citing his department as one of hundreds that improperly handled an internal affairs request is a learning experience that will result in training for his officers.
Last year the ACLU called nearly 500 police departments across the state and asked officers questions about filing IA complaints. More than half the departments answered at least one question incorrectly and 51 departments did not get a single question right, according to the report.
In an audio clip played throughout the day Tuesday on WNYC, a caller from the ACLU can be heard in conversation with someone the station identified as a Wyckoff Police officer.
“No. No complaints can be taken over the phone – we can’t identify with whom we’re speaking,” said an officer at the Wyckoff Police Department.
“It’s got to be done in person.”
Then the caller asks if there’s any way to do it anonymously.
“No, an anonymous complaint against an officer – that’s – absolutely not, that would never happen in any jurisdiction ever,” the officer says.
That's incorrect according to New Jersey law, which states that "every law enforcement agency must accept reports of officer misconduct from any person, including anonymous sources, at any time" and “under no circumstances shall it be necessary for a citizen to make a sworn statement to initiate the internal affairs process.”
The sergeant taking the call made a mistake, Police Chief Benjamin Fox said, adding that his entire department will get an internal affairs training refresher.
"I consider the ACLU inquiries a form of training. That's nothing to be afraid of. It's a good thing. I actually welcome it," he said.
"My officers did it wrong," Fox said. "We'll learn from that and be better tomorrow... if we take a real IA call on that today, I'm confident that our response will be according to the NJ guidelines."
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said his office would begin distributing copies of the rules to police departments around the state, according to the ACLU report.
A list of departments whose officers answered everything correctly is available online.
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