MAPLEWOOD, NJ - At least six Maplewood police officers have been disciplined for improper actions on July 5, 2016 -- including one officer who was suspended for 20 days, according to police officials who said the officers violated department procedures regarding use of force in several incidents with local residents.
Capt. Dawn Williams issued a statement Friday afternoon that said, in part:
“Following the fireworks on July 5, 2016, groups began to exit the area of Memorial Park. A fight subsequently occurred on Valley Street. Individuals began to exit the area. At the intersection (of) Elmwood Avenue and Orchard Road, Officers took 2 individuals into custody. Two additional individuals were taken into custody on Elmwood Avenue near the border of Irvington.
“The investigation into the complaints is ongoing. To date, 1 officer received 17 suspension days with an additional 3 suspension days in abeyance for violating Department Rules and Regulations for violating Department Procedure regarding the use of force. Another 5 officers have also received Formal discipline for violating Department rules and regulations.”
“In addition to the disciplinary action that has been taken, all Officers have received additional training to help prevent a recurrence of the violations that were determined to have occurred.”
The statement did not identify the officers or indicate what kind of “formal discipline” was handed out to the five officers who were not suspended.
The release was issued the same day that police officials made available long-awaited video of events that night, with some 10 hours of digital images from police cameras, parts of which were blurred to hide identities of juveniles.
The Township of Maplewood this week also released official police reports of the events that night.
The latest actions follow more than a year of inquiry into the police activities that followed the annual fireworks display in Memorial Park last year.
The July 4 fireworks were delayed a day due to rain in 2016. But after they were held on July 5, many youths gathered at the corner near Columbia High School and the 7-Eleven, sparking police efforts to disperse the crowd.
Police later reported that four juveniles were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct, obstruction of the administration of law, resisting arrest, and assault of a police officer.
On Aug. 30, 2016, Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino announced that an internal investigation had been launched into claims that police had acted improperly.
The ongoing investigation had also blocked release of all police reports related to the incident until this week.
In September 2016, tje Essex County Prosecutor's Office launched its own investigation into police conduct. That probe ended in April, according to Maplewood Township Administrator Joseph Manning, who cited a letter from the prosecutor's office that said, in part, "there is insufficient credible evidence to warrant a prosecution in this matter."
But it failed to exonerate the officers, stating only that the investigation "failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation."