Investigation into NJ police chief's email defending racial profiling

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Investigation into racial profiling e-mail
Toni Yates reports investigators are looking into whether a New Jersey police chief defended racial profiling in an e-mail.

WYCKOFF, New Jersey -- New Jersey prosecutors are investigating whether a police chief told his officers that racial profiling has a place in policing, including checking out "suspicious black people in white neighborhoods."

Tuesday night, there was news that the police chief would take temporary leave while prosecutors complete their investigation.

Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy and acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal said in a statement Tuesday that the offices are investigating an email from Wyckoff police Chief Benjamin Fox.

"On its face, the email appears to be a clear violation of the Attorney General's policy strictly prohibiting racial profiling by police officers," they said in the statement. "We are conducting a full investigation and will take all appropriate measures."

Someone answering the phone at Fox's office said he wasn't available to comment. A message left with the mayor of Wyckoff wasn't immediately returned.

The December 2014 email was released by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey on Tuesday. The group says it obtained it anonymously last week.

"Encouraging police officers to act with racial bias is unacceptable," said Alexander Shalom, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU in New Jersey. "Sowing mistrust at this level damages civil rights, and it threatens public safety by diminishing the faith people have in the police."

The email says that profiling has its place in law enforcement when used correctly and applied fairly. It says that officers should "check out suspicious black people in white neighborhoods" because "black gang members" from a nearby town commit burglaries in Wyckoff, a mostly white suburb, 30 miles west of New York. The email says that New York police stop white kids in black neighborhoods there because "they know they are there to buy drugs."

"It's insane to think that the police should just 'dumb down just to be politically correct,'" the email says. "The public wants us to keep them safe and I'm confident that they want us to use our skills and knowledge to attain that goal."

The email says that officers should continue to be fair to people and treat them with respect, but they should use "counter reaction as the law allows" if someone resists an authorized demand.

"Above all, do what you have to do and that which the law allows you to do to remain safe," the email says.