March 17, 2000|
Probe of Camden police may target other city officials
By FRANK KUMMER and CLINT RILEY
An investigation by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office into possible corruption in the city police department may also dig into possible wrongdoing by other city officials.
Camden Police Detective Dan Morris, president of Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 1, said he learned the investigation's scope is larger than originally believed during a meeting Thursday with Prosecutor Lee A. Solomon where they discussed concerns about confidentiality issues.
Solomon, who also serves as the state-appointed monitor of the city police department, said he could neither confirm nor deny any investigation and therefore could not comment on its scope.
"Lee Solomon is doing a broad investigation, not only of individual officers, but of misconduct by public officials at City Hall and other improper dealings with the police department," said Morris, whose union represents the rank-and-file officers in the department.
"The prosecutor has assured the FOP the confidentiality of these files will not be compromised," Morris said, adding that he supports the probe.
The prosecutor's office's special prosecutions unit subpoenaed all police personnel records - up to 500 in all - on Monday. The office already has access to internal affairs records because it reviews all allegations of criminal misconduct by officers.
The 27 boxes of police personnel records now in City Hall are expected to soon be in the hands of the investigators.
Morris, police union lawyers and city officials on Thursday cleared the way for the files to be turned over to the prosecutor's office by agreeing not to seek to block the subpoena.
Camden has 406 sworn officers on its force. The subpoena covers personnel records for any officer, including retirees, who served in the department from 1997 on. About 50 officers have retired from the force in the past three years.
Morris' organization and Lt. Lou Hannon, president of the Camden Organization of Police Superiors, initially voiced concern about the broadness of the subpoena and worried that personal information from the files might leak out.
Hannon, whose organization represents the department's sergeants, lieutenants and captains, said the union's lawyer has reviewed the request by the prosecutor's office. He said his organization has no objection to the records being turned over.
"We have to instill integrity back in the Camden Police Department," Hannon said. "We need to cooperate and move on."
Police Chief Robert Allenbach said a thorough investigation is overdue. He refused comment on the scope of the inquiry.
"I support it, and I will assist them in any way I can," he said.
The state Division of Criminal Justice conducted an investigation of the department in 1998 and uncovered widespread mismanagement under former Police Chief William Hill. Hill took early retirement in October 1998.
The state investigation did not necessarily focus on alleged police corruption. But the latest county-led criminal inquiry follows allegations of potential widespread police corruption that emerged during the federal drug trafficking trial of Jose "JR" Rivera and Luis "Tun Tun" Figueroa. Both men were convicted Feb. 29 of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Rivera and Figueroa, said to be leaders in the city's largest drug syndicate in the 1990s, are awaiting sentencing.