A New Jersey police chief has been suspended and demoted after prosecutors found that an email that said profiling has its place in law enforcement if done correctly "explicitly" violated a state directive prohibiting racial profiling.
Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox has been demoted to patrolman and will serve a 180-day suspension after Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewel launched an investigation into the email that had been released by the American Civil Liberties Union's New Jersey chapter.
The police chief wrote in a 2014 email to his department that police should "check out suspicious black people in white neighborhoods" because "black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff." Wyckoff is a mostly white suburb, 30 miles west of New York. He said that New York police stop white kids in black neighborhoods there because "they know they are there to buy drugs."
He also said officers should continue to be fair to people and treat them with respect but should use "counter reaction as the law allows" if someone resists an authorized demand.
Announcing the results of his investigation Tuesday, Grewal cited a 2002 directive by the state attorney general that prohibits law enforcement agencies from engaging in racially influenced policing.
He also said his investigation did not reveal any substantiated instances of racial profiling or find that Wyckoff police either encouraged or condoned racial profiling.
He urged township officials to take action, and the town responded by suspending and demoting Fox. Mayor Kevin Rooney said in statement on Wednesday that there was no widespread issue of racial profiling in the town's police force.
"The action of Chief Benjamin Fox was an isolated incident and the Prosecutor’s Office findings proved what we have believed all along - that aside from the December 5, 2014 email from Chief Benjamin Fox, the Wyckoff Police Department did not endorse or encourage the practice of racially-influenced policing," Rooney said.
The Record newspaper reported that the township committee on Tuesday approved a resolution calling for demoting Fox.
Fox, who has denied wrongdoing, was suspended with pay in May after the 40-year law enforcement veteran agreed to go on administrative leave in March.
His attorney said Friday that Fox wasn't discriminating against one group.
The police department has operated under the guidance of a monitor since the investigation began. Police officers also have received additional training on profiling, use of force and complaints, and more training is to take place this year.