Police captain cleared of all criminal charges, back to work

Photo by Chris Sykes
Capt. Monique Smith of the Irvington Police Division stands in front of the Information Desk inside police headquarters in Civic Square on Wednesday, Sept. 6, her first day back on the job after being cleared of all the criminal charges she faced as a result of an incident between herself and Newark Councilman John Sharpe James.

IRVINGTON, NJ — Wednesday, Sept. 6, was the first day back on the job for Irvington Police Division Capt. Monique Smith, after she was cleared of all criminal charges related to an off-duty incident involving Newark Councilman John Sharpe James in 2014, son of the former Newark mayor.

According to Smith’s attorney, Steven Altman, on Monday, July 31, Superior Court Judge Michael Ravin settled the final legal charges against Smith, fining her $125. The charges against her included: petty disorderly persons for harassment offense, a disorderly persons offense of criminal mischief, a reckless driving motor vehicle offense, and leaving the scene of an accident.

Earlier this year, Ravin found Smith not guilty of the unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose — the weapon being her car — stemming from an alleged 2014 lover’s quarrel with James, following her promotion ceremony on Monday, Jan. 5, 2014, to the rank of captain.

Even though Smith is no longer facing legal charges, she will still have to undergo a Irvington Police Department investigation.

“I can confirm that she has returned and that there is an internal administrative investigation being conducted to determine if any Police Division rule, regulation, policy, etc., were violated in connection with the reason why she was originally suspended,” said Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers on Monday, Sept. 11. “The investigation is being conducted by Internal Affairs.”

Smith did not make a comment about returning to work to the Irvington Herald, but she did have a big smile on her face, when asked about her return.

SOA Local 29 President Sgt. Charles Capers did have something to say about Smith’s return for the record.

“We all have to face departmental charges on certain things,” Capers said Monday, Sept. 11. “She has to go through that process. We just hope that it’s a fair process. As long as it’s a fair process, we don’t have a problem with that.”

Vauss said he’s glad Smith is happy to be back to work and on the job and that he’s happy to have her back.

“Captain Smith has been vindicated of all charges and was entitled to be reinstated as soon as possible. For the second summer in a row, the township has had zero homicides during the summer months. Her return will add to our supervisor ranks and keep up with the tradition of making Irvington a safer community for all of us,” said Vauss.

Ravin’s decisions paved the way for Smith’s return to the police force. After initially accusing her of assault, James later recanted his story about the incident and dropped his charges against Smith but, by that time, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office had become involved and picked the charges back up.

“She was found not guilty … on all of the charges which were being tried,” said Altman on Tuesday, May 9. “Monique was innocent from the start. This is one time the system worked.”

This meant Smith only had to deal with the minor charges, ending with the fine.

“She was fined $125 for reckless driving after two years, eight months and hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense,” said former police Chief Michael Chase on Monday, July 31. “The township owes her two years and eight months in back pay. That’s almost $300,000.”

Chase said he hopes Smith can “move on” with her life and resume her law enforcement career, now that all of the charges stemming from the 2014 incident have been resolved.

“I’m glad she had this outcome, because she is definitely an asset to the police department and the township of Irvington, where she can return and live up to her full potential as a police officer and senior police supervisor,” Chase said.