One year later, probes into July 5, 2016, incident continue

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — One year later, the township is still investigating an alleged racial profiling incident that occurred in Maplewood on July 5, 2016, shortly after the township’s annual fireworks display.

At approximately 10 p.m. on July 5, 2016, Maplewood police arrested four teenagers — three from South Orange and one from Maplewood — in the area of Valley Street and Crowell Place after receiving a report of a large fight. According to police, the officers saw a large group of disorderly teenagers, whom they attempted to disperse; however, the teens allegedly resisted, refusing to leave the area.

With assistance from the South Orange and Irvington police departments, Maplewood police monitored the situation and arrested four teenage boys, charging them with several counts, including disorderly conduct, obstruction, resisting arrest and aggravated assault on a police officer. According to police, the group of teenagers — reportedly mostly black — was ultimately disbanded near the Irvington border; no officers were injured and no property was reported damaged as a result of the alleged fight.

On March 30, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Officer concluded that there was “insufficient credible evidence to warrant a prosecution” of Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino and Capt. Joshua Cummis, who had been accused of racial profiling.

Nevertheless, the township is still investigating the incident through the MPD’s Internal Affairs Unit. As a result, the township has declined to release police audio and video tapes from that night.

“Since this investigation is still active, it would be inappropriate for the Township Committee to publicly comment. The committee cannot say or take any action that could undermine the investigation or infringe on the rights of those being investigated,” read a June 30 statement from the Maplewood Township Committee. “At the conclusion of the internal police investigation and the independent assessment, it is anticipated that relevant material will be made available to the public under the Open Public Records Act.”

In addition to the internal affairs investigation, the township has hired an independent investigator to look into the alleged incident.

“At the same time, the Township Committee has deep concerns and wants to know more about the events of July 5, 2016,” the statement read. “It has hired the firm Hillard Heintze to complete an independent assessment of July 5 and to make recommendations regarding police policies, procedures and practices. The work of Hillard Heintze should be finished by the end of September. At this time the Township Committee cannot say or take any action that could prejudice the work of Hillard Heintze.”

The Township Committee had previously expressed its “deep concerns about the events of July 5, 2016,” in a resolution it passed unanimously in December.

“Maplewood is committed to the equal, respectful and dignified treatment of all people and has long embraced and welcomed individuals of diverse racial, ethnic and national backgrounds,” the June 30 statement read.