SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — In December 2021, at a Community Police Collaborative meeting, a researcher associated with a Police Perception Study being conducted in partnership with several New Jersey universities made allegations that South Orange police officers were involved in racial profiling, according to a May 27 statement from South Orange Police Chief Ernesto Morillo. This was presented as the researcher’s opinion, based on their personal perceptions of the content of interviews with South Orange police officers who volunteered to participate in the academic research, according to Morillo.
According to the South Orange Police Department, it conducted a “thorough investigation” with assistance from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
“The investigation and a review of all information failed to disclose sufficient evidence to support the allegation,” according to Morillo. “Although the relevant witnesses were located, their statements did not support the claims made by the researcher during the CPC meeting. Neither physical evidence nor documents in support of the allegation could be located. Nonetheless, we encourage and support any officer that comes forward to report any type of inappropriate policing. In fact, it is an officer’s duty to report such behavior and our duty to vigorously investigate any report of the same.
“The South Orange Police Department understands that racial profiling is a serious crime, which undermines public confidence and prevents a cooperative relationship between law enforcement and the community that it is sworn to protect and to serve. The South Orange Police Department understands that even if one of its members has a perception that racial profiling occurs in South Orange to any degree, or that it is being tolerated, that this is cause for introspection,” the statement read. “The South Orange Police Department is committed to continuing to improve its practices and training of its members. There is a similar commitment to maintaining an organizational culture where the community and employees alike have confidence that every member of this agency is honoring their oath to safeguard the civil rights of all persons, including the right to the equal protection under the law.”