Wyckoff Police Chief Violated Ban on Racially Biased Policing, AG & County Prosecutor Find

ACLU-NJ Commends AG & Bergen Prosecutor, and Calls for Chief’s Firing

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
August 3, 2016 11:00 am

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The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office found that the Wyckoff chief of police violated the state’s ban on racially biased policing, concluding an investigation that began after the ACLU of New Jersey shared an anonymously leaked email from the police chief of Wyckoff (PDF), in Bergen County. The Office of the Attorney General appointed the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to carry out the investigation of the Wyckoff Police. The Wyckoff Township Committee voted unanimously last night to demote Fox to a non-supervisory position.

On March 22, the ACLU-NJ asked the Office of the Attorney General to investigate (PDF) when it provided the AG with an email that appeared to be a directive from Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin C. Fox encouraging racial profiling. Specifically, Chief Fox purported to “know” that “Black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff. That’s why we check out suspicious black people in white neighborhoods.” Fox has been suspended with pay — along with 180 days of unpaid suspension — since early May following the March 2016 revelations of his email, which was sent in 2014.

In response to the findings of racially influenced policing, the ACLU-NJ issues the following statement, which can be attributed to Ed Barocas, ACLU-NJ legal director:

“The ACLU-NJ applauds the Office of the Attorney General and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office for taking these disturbing allegations of racial profiling seriously and conducting a thorough investigation. The investigation has confirmed what seemed apparent to any New Jerseyan who read Chief Fox’s email: the chief brazenly violated the state’s ban on racially influenced policing.

“There is simply no place in New Jersey or anywhere else for racial profiling or bigoted policing, and Chief Fox should be fired. Demotion is not enough. Wyckoff now has a duty to fire Chief Fox and send a message that anyone who believes racial profiling has a place in law enforcement should not have any position in a New Jersey police department. Period.

“We commend the Attorney General and Bergen County Prosecutor for quickly carrying out most of our recommendations for reform of the Wyckoff Police Department’s policing practices. The AG’s Office has required officers to receive both anti-bias and de-escalation training, steps that all police departments should take to build stronger ties between officers and the communities they serve. We call on the Attorney General’s Office to publicly release their findings and analysis related to the investigation.

“It is now up to the Township of Wyckoff to take prompt action and build a culture of fair, transparent and racially just policing. It is imperative for the Wyckoff Police Department to immediately begin collecting and publicly reporting data to draw an accurate picture of its policing. To understand and reverse the influence of the racially biased leadership that the AG’s and Bergen County Prosecutor’s investigation uncovered, the department must gather and publish data on all stops, frisks, searches, summonses, arrests and use-of-force incidents by officers. Sunlight, as it is said, is the best of disinfectants.”

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