NUTLEY, NJ - Nutley resident Maria Bozza brought forward her feelings about the annual motorcycle run at Grace Episcopal Church, 200 Highfield Lane and the treatment she claims she received from a Nutley police officer during the public comment portion of the May 1 Board of Commissioners public meeting.

Bozza said she received a letter from Grace Church on Thursday, April 26 that there would be a motorcycle run, suicide awareness walk and a music band. Grace Church held the their annual Holy Roller Run and Bike Blessing along with a Memorial Walk on Sunday, April 29, all proceeds went to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The event raised over $4,000.

Bozza, who resides at Highfield Lane across from the church, said the street from Tennis place to North Road is blocked off from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “It’s a serious inconvenience for many reasons, not to mention the disturbance of peace and tranquility in the neighborhood. …It is a great inconvenience to have your whole street blocked off for the entire day. ...Do you know what 200 motorcycles sound like,” she said.  Bozza said she is able to come and go that day but she has to have someone move the barriers.

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According to Bozza she said she spoke to Officer Joseph O’Halloran last year about this and he said he would contact the neighbors and discuss it with them before the permit was issued. She said he claims he doesn’t remember speaking to anyone about it before. “I guess my voice, even though I’m a tax payer doesn’t count in the eyes of the Nutley Police Department,” she said.

Bozza said when she complained this year she had a “not so pleasant conversation with Mr. O’Halloran of the Nutley Police Department.”

“Many of the motorcyclists if you come there you will see, they are kind of seedy people when you look at them, maybe they are not but they give that appearance,” said Bozza.

Bozza claims O’Halloran told her that she was prejudiced and if they were black she would be racist.  “I really resent a police officer speaking to me like that, he really twisted my words.  …If I were black, or Muslim or another nationality I don’t think he would speak to me like that. I resent his attack and his bullying because I am a tax payer and he is a public servant. His job as a police officer is to be a peacemaker not a troublemaker. He owes me an apology,” she said.

Bozza claims she is not against the charity the church is running just where they hold it. She feels they could hold this in another part of town, in a town parking lot or a park. According to Bozza other neighbors feel the same way. She said she told The Rev. Pamela Bakal, rector of Grace Church to hold it at St. Mary’s or Holy Family Church.

According to Bozza, O’Halloron’s attitude comes from the commissioners. “You set the tone for how your departments behave, when people call them or when they come to town hall or the police department. …Just observing you’re nonverbal behavior […] I get the impression that you’re annoyed when people question you and what you are doing.  Your body language tells me that you don’t care what we say, that you listen to us but you’re not that interested,” she said.

“You think you’re above the law and the town belongs to you and not the people you are here to serve,” she added.

Bozza said she sent Mayor Joseph P. Scarpelli a letter a few months ago and claims he asked people in the town hall who she was. He denied the claims and said he knows who she is.

“We do pay taxes, we do have a right,” she said.

Petracco said, “We have a commission form of government so anything with the police department, fire department or ambulance squad falls on me. I don’t want any of our officers speaking to anybody in that kind of tone or what you are alleging that he did.”

Petracco said he would look into the situation. He wants to hear from O’Halloron as well. He also said he could open up an internal affairs investigation if Bozza wanted to pursue it further.

“I take it personally [ …]when someone comes up here and says we are sitting up here that we don’t care we are annoyed  because that’s not the case. Because as I have a deli in town people come in there all day long with issues and I never chase anybody away.  I think everybody’s voice is important,” he said.

“Our job as elected officials is to find a happy medium and if we could do it and maybe team up with Commissioner [Mauro] Tucci and have it up there,” he said.

A statement released later by Police Chief Thomas J. Strumolo said the complaint was investigated by Internal Affairs and it was found to be no wrong doing on the part by Officer Joseph O’Halloran.

Bakal did not return numerous calls for comment.

Related story: Nutley’s Annual Holy Roller Run Raises Funds for Suicide Awareness

 

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