Wyckoff Police Chief Under Scrutiny For Telling Cops Racial Profiling Is Cool
Mar. 24, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Wyckoff, NJ Police Chief Benjamin Fox volunteered to go on temporary paid administrative leave on Tuesday, pending a probe by the state Attorney General into a 2014 email he allegedly sent to staff in support of racial profiling. According to Township Administrator Bob Shannon, Fox circulated the email to the entire police department on December 5, 2014. It was later publicized this month, when an anonymous source shared the controversial email with the ACLU’s New Jersey chapter. The email, promptly released by the ACLU, states in pertinent part:
Profiling, racial or otherwise, has its place in law enforcement when used correctly and applied fairly…Don’t ask the police to ignore what we know. Black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff. That’s why we check out suspicious black people in white neighborhoods. White kids buy heroin in black NYC neighborhoods. That’s why the NYPD stops those white kids. The police know they are there to buy drugs. It’s insane to think that the police should just “dumb down” just to be politically correct.
The ACLU-NJ disagreed, and sent a letter addressed to NJ’s Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy, requesting an investigation and demanding that Fox be fired if the probe determines that he was indeed responsible for circulating the note:
We anticipate that he will be held accountable and that a strong message will be sent, both to the Wyckoff Police Department and the community that it serves, that racial profiling has no place in New Jersey law enforcement. Simply put, if Chief Fox sent the email, he should be fired.
They also filed an Open Public Records Act request with the Wyckoff Police Department to determine whether, “the organizational culture as demonstrated in the email has affected police practices [in Wyckoff].” The request sought arrest data, use of force reports, stop-and-frisk numbers, training materials and email correspondence containing profiling among other records.
In response, the Wyckoff Township Committee held an emergency meeting on Tuesday night to discuss how to best address the email controversy.
Fox, who was present at the meeting, volunteered to go on immediate administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, stating that it was in the “best interest of the department since it would avoid unnecessary distractions.” He also promised attendees that he would meet with representatives from the prosecutor’s office and “explain the contents of his email and demonstrate that neither he nor our police department has ever condoned or engaged in profiling.”
New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2005-1 states that the police
[S]hall not consider a person’s race or ethnicity as a factor in drawing an inference or conclusion that the person may be involved in criminal activity, or as a factor in exercising police discretion as to how to stop or otherwise treat the person, except when responding to a suspect-specific or investigation-specific “Be on the Lookout” (B.O.L.O.) situation.
Tom O’Reilly, the director of the Police Institute at Rutgers University, told NorthJersey.com that this “can be a fine line” for officers to walk while policing the streets. “We expect the officers to use their training and experience to identify potential threats to public safety. If those threats are based on his experience — and the behavior of the subject — than [sic] it’s not racial profiling,” O’Reilly said. “[But] if the only reason he stops an individual is because of what their ethnicity is or how they’re dressed, then that individual perhaps may have crossed the line.”