Maplewoodian by Joe Strupp

Maplewood Police Chief Firing and One Surreal Night

ea2fc405048c882cd977_joe_strupp.jpg
ea2fc405048c882cd977_joe_strupp.jpg

Maplewood saw a shockwave Tuesday night as Police Chief Robert Cimino and Capt. Joshua Cummis were shown the door following months of complaints about how many young people of color were mistreated after last year’s fireworks event.

Officially, the Township Committee unanimously offered a vote of no confidence for Cimino, a 35-year department veteran and chief since 2000, then followed with a strong vote calling for his resignation and placement on paid leave.

The swift discipline came just four days after videos of police actions on July 5, 2016 -- which included pepper spraying of some youths and at least one kicked in the head -- were released to the public.

Sign Up for E-News

But the biggest anger for many came from the reports and police audio recordings that many African-American Maplewood youngsters were “corralled” toward the border with Irvington instead of being dispersed locally and allowed to remain in the township.

The idea that they were not allowed to return home or stay in their community was seen as unfair at best and racist at worst.

Township and police officials did not help their efforts by waiting more than a year to issue the police reports, audio and video of the evening in question despite months of requests from the press and public.

Township Committee members on Tuesday pointed to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, which spent months reviewing the claims, then punted with a weak finding of not enough evidence to prove or disprove the complaints.

Community response last week was sharp and angry but peaceful when the evidence was finally released. The reaction began on social media with calls for protests and Cimino’s ouster within hours of the video and audio going public. 

It all culminated Tuesday in something of a strange evening.

Due to circumstances of scheduling, events and breaking news, the Township saw the best and worst of its police department on display within a matter of hours, and within a few blocks that night.

The annual National Night Out was held in De Hart Park, with police on hand to speak with residents, promote community policing and answer questions. The usual hot dogs, pizza and entertainment were also seen.

But the goodwill and outreach could not mask the big issue on many minds that night: anger at unfair police behavior toward many people of color.

And the elephant in the room literally walked across the event in the form of some 100 protesters who peacefully marched in the park bearing signs and chants demanding justice and the chief’s resignation.

The group had gathered just blocks away at the Springfield Avenue gazebo and, after speeches and demands for change, marched to the park to make their case heard. Police escorts led them down the street and many of the cops on duty for National Night Out cleared the way so they could march through the park several times.

At one point the group sat down in front of the DJ offering music and even briefly took to the microphone to demand changes. Police likely knowing any effort to restrict them would backfire let them speak.

The most surprising moment might have been protesters using the police department’s own DJ microphone to call for the police chief to resign.

The protest then left the park and headed to the Maplewood police headquarters where the Township Committee was to hold its regular meeting. (Summer TC meetings are held there because the Town Hall chambers lacks air conditioning).

With a rare overflow crowd, the TC quickly denounced the video and issued their vote to see Cimino removed. They also heard from a consulting group recently hired to investigate police practices, which also asked members of the public to contact them with information.

A consultant’s report is expected by late September.

While the police leadership change may have been a bit abrupt and surprising to many, the cause behind it is not. Maplewood’s diversity is one of the town’s great assets and attractions, but an underlying friction has also existed for some.

Concerns about a racial divide at Columbia High School go back years with many students noting natural segregation often occurs. 

Recent signs of disparity occurred in 2014 when the ACLU filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights claiming minority students were being disciplined at an unfairly higher rate than white students and being denied advance placement as well.

That led to an agreement in which the district would implement several changes to the promotion and discipline policies and appoint a consultant to help implement them.

Then just last year a proposal to assign a police officer to Columbia High School was met with opposition from many students of color who said they did not trust the police. Several offered examples of what they contend was unfair and even racist treatment from cops.

But while many cheered Cimino’s pending departure at the TC meeting, it also raises concerns about the future of the department in other ways. 

The next chief needs to not only create a department with zero tolerance for any kind of prejudicial or racially divided policing, but also one that can keep the township safe and protected.

Under Cimino, crime has consistently gone down and community policing has been a priority. The next chief needs to keep that positive effect going while also making sure that no resident or visitor feels unfairly treated or the target of any racial or other selective enforcement.

The way this situation played out with residents firmly, but peacefully calling for change and demanding rights be restored --and the township government acting swiftly to make those changes -- is a great reminder that the people can and must be heard.

Still, it is also time to take a breath on both sides and direct all energies toward the next step, helping the police to improve policies regarding youth and community fairness, healing the divide and anger that past actions have caused, and keeping our town as safe as it can be.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast Episode 17

On this week’s AtlantiCast, it’s National Men’s Health Month, so check out important health tips for you or the men in your life, learn about groundbreaking research into breast cancer treatment that could mean an end to chemotherapy for some patients, meet a local sports hero who’s living his baseball dreams thanks to Goryeb Children’s Hospital and much ...

South Orange Police Blotter - iPhone Reported Stolen from Basketball Courts

June 21, 2018

South Orange Police Blotter as of June 21

Burglary - The owner of a business on Vose Avenue reported that sometime between 12:45 p.m., Sunday, June 17,  and 10 a.m., Monday, June 18, actor(s) unknown forcibly gained access to the business through the front door, rummaged through cabinets and desks and removed some personal items (including Bose brand speakers ...

South Orange Police Blotter: Robbery Reported on South Orange Avenue

South Orange Police Blotter as of June 16

Robbery - An Alpha, NJ resident reported that he was robbed on Sunday, June 3, at approximately 12:30 a.m. while he was walking on South Orange Avenue near Scotland Road. The victim stated that he was approached by three unknown actors who punched him and knocked him to the ground. The actors then stole his cell phone and wallet ...

SOMA Celebrates Pride with Painted Lampposts in South Orange and Crosswalks in Maplewood

June 22, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Earlier this month, Maplewood celebrated Pride by painting rainbow crosswalks outside of Town Hall at the intersection of Oakview Avenue and Valley Street, which were unveiled with a celebration and ribbon cutting on Thursday, June 6.

Inspired by the Maplewood crosswalks, on Thursday evening, June 21, South Orange recognized Pride month by having community ...

Fifth Annual Two Towns Triathlon for Kids Postponed Until September Due to South Orange Pool Still Being Closed

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The 5th Annual Two Towns Triathlon for Kids, originally scheduled to be held in South Orange on Saturday, June 16, has been postponed until Saturday, September 8, according to an update on the South Orange website. 

 

The postponement is because the South Orange Community Pool is still closed for the season due to construction delays with the filter ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, June 26, 6:30 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Memoir Writing Class at Millburn Library

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_af1b89eae735bf536426_par440_promo

Fri, June 29, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_ab87d453f7ef0862e666_2018montage2804x956-3

Tue, July 3, 4:30 PM

Maplewood Memorial Park, Maplewood

First Time Ever July 3rd Circus Performances and ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink Other

Lecia Bianca Jewels Creates a Bridge to Make Bloomfield Center the Next Style Destination

June 16, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The Bloomfield Center renaissance continues as Lecia Bianca Jewels becomes a style destination on main thoroughfare in this Essex County Community. Lecia Clay, owner of the boutique, describes her jewelry as 'bridge jewelry,' - pieces that are in a space between costume jewelry and fine jewelry, while having value. 

'Lecia Bianca' is the ...

Record Number Attends West Essex YMCA's Sixth Annual Bike Livingston

LIVINGSTON, NJ — On the heels of National Bike Safety Month in May, a new record of nearly 500 Livingston riders participated in the sixth annual Bike Livingston event, a family-oriented bike tour of Livingston’s neighborhoods hosted each year by the West Essex YMCA on the first Sunday in June.

With three routes to choose from—a four-mile route around the ...

Newark Cop Convicted of Reckless Manslaughter for 2016 Fatal Shooting of Piscataway Man

June 22, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ – A Newark police officer was convicted of reckless manslaughter in the death of a man outside Paddy’s Place in Union in May 2016, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Wednesday.

The officer, Joseph Macchia, 37, was convicted of fatally shooting 37-year-old Michael Gaffney of Piscataway following an argument and fight at Paddy’s ...

Westfield to Hold 3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ Celebrating Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct. 26 to Oct. 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced ...

Welcome To South Orange, Drive 25!

June 22, 2018

With very few exceptions, the speed limit throughout the Village is 25 miles per hour.

Along with barbeques, trips down the shore, and local ice cream runs, July and August mark the summer driving season. If you are driving in, or through South Orange, that means driving at 25 miles per hour. “Welcome to South Orange, now drive 25” says Lt. Michael Corrigan, the head of the SOPD ...

Weekly Specials at Ashley Marketplace - June 22 to June 28

Shop Ashley Marketplace & Cafe for your everyday needs!

This week's specials are:          

Chobani Yogurt 32oz $6.99
Friendly’s Ice Cream 48floz $3.99
Turkey Hero $5.99 ea (Deli)
Brad’s Blues Tortilla Chips  $2.99
Housemade Premade Lemonade 16oz $4.99 (Bakery)
Red Wax Gouda $5.99lb ...

Susan G. Komen North Jersey Increases Program Funding by 15% for 2018-2019 and Awards 13 Grants to 11 Local Community Non-Profit Organizations

Susan G. Komen North Jersey announced that it will award a total of 13 grants to 11 local community non-profit organizations in its nine-county service area for 2018-2019, with an increase in total program funding at 15% year over year. Since its founding in 1997, Komen North Jersey has awarded nearly $19 million to local community programs in nine North Jersey counties and has directed more than ...