WESTFIELD, NJ — Mayor Shelley Brindle spoke about the Westfield Police Department during her update at Tuesday night’s town council meeting, saying that a car crash involving a police captain's daughter and the abrupt retirement of Chief David Wayman on Aug. 1 were unrelated, and that an investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office into that crash did not find any official wrongdoing on the part of the Westfield Police Department:
“In the midst of numerous media reports concerning the Westfield Police Department, I’d like to take the opportunity to provide an update and some additional context regarding the circumstances behind Chief Wayman’s sudden departure, as well as the handling of a traffic accident involving a police captain’s family member, which are two separate and unrelated incidents.
“Let me begin by extending get-well wishes to Westfield resident Ashley Redding, who is recovering from a car accident involving the teenage daughter of a police captain. I have been heartened by how this community has rallied around Ms. Redding, as our residents often do with those in need. I have not had the opportunity to meet Ms. Redding, in spite of repeated asks through her attorney, and of course would like to express my concern in person.
“I also want to extend my thoughts and concerns for the teenage driver whose life has also been impacted by the publicity surrounding this very unfortunate accident.
“Many questions have been raised about how Ms. Redding’s case was handled by our police department. As mayor, I have no input as to where and why a case gets moved to another municipality, which is determined by the local court office and the municipal judge, consistent with the county court transfer system. Mountainside is always the first-choice court for Westfield and they accepted the case.
“In this instance, I didn’t know it had moved to Mountainside nor about the dismissal of the citations until I read about it in news accounts. Our understanding in this matter is that the charges filed by the Reddings occurred after the legally required 30-day period had passed and were ultimately dismissed by the Mountainside court as a result of this timing issue.
“Additionally, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office conducted an investigation into this accident and did not find any official wrongdoing on the part of the Westfield Police Department. That being said, I believe in accountability. In looking objectively at the facts, it is clear that we have work to do in order to avoid any similar situations in the future and the slightest perception of poor judgment. To that end, we are implementing specific policy guidelines for how incidents involving police officer family members be reported and processed going forward. I believe this is a first step on the path to greater transparency that benefits residents and police officers alike.
“I recognize that residents may also have additional questions about the swift departure of Chief Wayman, and hope you understand that I am limited by what I am legally allowed to share. This is as frustrating for me as it is for concerned residents who are seeking answers. While I prioritize transparency, of course I must simultaneously respect the legal parameters that are in place.
“Looking forward, I believe we have a significant opportunity when selecting a new police chief to evolve the department to one that reflects the values of my administration and our community. To that end, we will be looking for a chief with unquestionable character and integrity who embraces a community policing model, and who can transform the culture of the department in to one that embodies trust and accountability. The many outstanding men and women in the department, along with the residents of Westfield, deserve nothing less. I take this opportunity very seriously and am committed to a diligent, fair and thorough process, which will be one of my top priorities for the foreseeable future.”
To read Mayor Brindle’s complete update from Tuesday night, click here.