“Hunting at the border.”
It’s a term the I-Team has been told North Brunswick police officers privately use to describe a practice they say went on for years in their Township. What they are referring to is the border between North and New Brunswick and roads that are often heavily traveled by minorities.
Veteran police officer Mike Campbell said that cops would target black and Latino neighborhoods to fulfill ticket quotas and claims there was a financial reward to rack up numbers. The more tickets, the more money officers would receive in overtime pay.
“For every 40 tickets written, that would be a minimum of 4 hours overtime, even if you ended up going to court for five minutes,” said Campbell. Campbell said there was no official policy; it was an unwritten understanding in the Department.
Another officer, who asked the I-Team to conceal his identity, said, “Guys were going out. They were competing for how many tickets each guy could get.”
A different cop said, “They’re saying they’re going out hunting. You go to traffic court and you see the impact. 90% of the people you see there are blacks and latinos.
24 year-old Najaer Brown said his life cascaded downhill after he received a flurry of tickets a few years ago. He was going back and forth to college in New York and claimed he didn’t get court notices.
“I had a warrant out for me and got locked up,” he said. “And then I got my driver’s license suspended.”
He now has to ask relatives for rides to work or he walks.
Campbell said he became so disturbed what he was seeing that he began filing of freedom of information requests. Minutes from an executive session of the council in the fall of 2009 reveal a notation for discussion: “Why ticket writing is so down.”
“That’s when you started hearing more of writing summonses,” Campbell said.
A fellow cop added, “In order for guys to get to that quota faster, they would go in and write ‘license plate light,’ “license plate bracket,’ ‘headlight out,’ ‘something hanging from the mirror.’
Several people at traffic court told the I-Team they received several tickets during one stop and all stated they were pulled over in neighborhoods that the cops we spoke to identified as a prime “hunting” locations.
The claims of the North Brunswick officers echo those made by members of the NYPD 12: 12 New York City officers who sued the Department in 2016 over alleged racial quotas. One Detective told the I-Team: “At the end of the month, you go hunting for blacks and hispanics.” The NYPD denies quotas ever existed.
Campbell said the reward incentive program in North Brunswick began in earnest in 2010 and continued until 2018 when news broke of a similar reward scandal involving the Palisades Parkway Police.
“The repercussions are still being felt,” he said. “Some people still have warrants. Some are still paying summonses, some have experienced suspensions or they lost their job.” He added he believes minority neighborhoods are still unfairly targeted by enforcement.
The North Brunswick Police Department declined an on camera interview or to provide a statement.
In a phone interview, Mayor Francis Womack III, said, “Based on what you’re reporting, I have authorized an independent investigation. If summonses were targeted at any particular community, that will be determined through a review. We will do whatever it takes to get to the truth.”
Campbell filed a whistle blower complaint with the Attorney General’s office in October but said he’s received no response. The AG declined to comment.