Wyckoff police chief on voluntary leave during racial profiling investigation

WYCKOFF, New Jersey -- A police chief is taking a temporary leave while prosecutors investigate whether he told his officers that racial profiling, including checking out "suspicious black people in white neighborhoods," has a place in policing.

Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy and acting Bergen County prosecutor Gurbir Grewal said in a statement Tuesday that their 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."

At an emergency township committee meeting Tuesday night, Fox asked to go on administrative leave while the investigation is pending. A statement from the town said that Fox will explain the email to investigators and "demonstrate that neither he nor our police department has ever condoned or engaged in profiling."

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