NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Audrey Pittman was driving home last September when she noticed a car in her designated handicapped parking spot on Handy Street.
But after calling New Brunswick police to remove the vehicle, she claimed things only got worse. Two officers arrived to deal with the illegally-parked car, but Pittman soon found herself in what she considered a confrontational situation with the cop who was behind the wheel.
“He handled the situation,” Pittman, who has lived in New Brunswick for 70 years, told the City Council last week, “but the way that he approached and talked to me—to me, that’s unacceptable.”
The police department’s internal affairs unit investigated the matter last year after Pittman filed a complaint. Capt. J.T. Miller, who heads internal affairs, said the probe turned up “no wrongdoing on the part of the officer.”
Pittman approached the council, however, not looking for the city to reopen the investigation or punish the unnamed city cop. She said all she wants now is for him to apologize.
What troubled Pittman about the encounter, she claimed, was how the patrolman spoke in a curt, annoyed tone. She claimed the officer remained in his truck once he arrived, and abruptly responded to Pittman’s greeting with, “Yeah? What’s up?”
From then on, he allegedly continued to speak briefly and harshly, asking her for proof of her handicap registration and saying he’s “gonna do my job,” Pittman claimed.
“I was just stunned,” she said. “He had a very, very nasty attitude.”
The encounter, she claimed, didn’t reflect well on New Brunswick police. But she said she has since dealt with another officer who was polite and worked diligently to solve a separate problem.
Miller said Pittman is “entitled to her opinion,” though he intended to relay her request for an apology to Police Director Anthony Caputo.
“I do not know which way that will go,” Miller said. “But, again, Ms. Pittman has her opinion. Internal affairs has theirs.”
The police captain added that there are “two different sides” to this story.
For his part, Council President Glenn Fleming apologized to Pittman.
“I don’t know if I can speak for everybody, but I’m sorry that you did go through this situation,” Fleming said, later noting that the cop hadn’t broken any law. “The most we can do is have a dialogue.”
Pittman’s nephew, Tormell Pittman, has raised this issue before the council in the months since the encounter. He has claimed that police officers wouldn’t talk to a white woman in such a way, and if they were to do that, such an encounter would spark outrage in the city.
City officials have rejected the idea that any possible incident was rooted in prejudice.