SUMMIT, NJ — At the end of January, the Summit Police Department released its 2020 internal affairs summary report, listing complaints made against law enforcement officers and the ensuing investigations’ determinations.
According to the summary report, there were 15 total complaints filed in 2020; of those, 10 were filed by the agency and five by citizens. There are nine categories of complaints: excessive force, improper arrest, improper entry, improper search, other criminal violation, differential treatment, demeanor, domestic violence and other rule violation. All 10 agency complaints were for “other rule violation.” Of the citizen complaints, two were for improper search, two were for differential treatment and one was for demeanor.
Following investigation, Summit Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit deemed all 10 agency complaints of “other rule violation” and the single citizen complaint for demeanor to be sustained. According to the report, of the two citizen complaints of differential treatment, the officer in one complaint was exonerated and the other complaint was unfounded. Lastly, according to the report, the two citizen complaints of improper search were not sustained.
“If the complaint is sustained, the appropriate disciplinary action is determined,” Capt. Steven Zagorski, Support Services Division commander for the SPD, told Union County LocalSource. “Typical disciplinary actions for minor infractions include performance notices, oral reprimands or written reprimands. The typical disciplinary actions for serious infractions include suspension from duty without pay, loss of vacation time, demotion or termination.”
More details regarding the officers disciplined and the specific disciplinary actions were not released for privacy reasons.
“The Summit Police Department accepts all citizen complaints of officer misconduct from all persons who wish to file a complaint, regardless of the hour or day of the week,” Zagorski said. “This includes reports from anonymous sources, juveniles, undocumented immigrants and persons under arrest or in custody. Internal affairs personnel, if available, will accept complaints. If internal affairs personnel are not available, supervisory personnel will accept reports of officer misconduct, and if no supervisory personnel are available, complaints will be accepted by any law enforcement officer.”
Zagorski stressed that complaints can be filed in several ways, including in person, by phone, by mail and by email. All complaints are forwarded to the Internal Affairs Unit for investigation.
“If the complaint involves an allegation of criminal misconduct, it is immediately forwarded to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation,” Zagorski said. “Allegations of administrative misconduct, such as violations of agency rules and regulations and/or policy, are investigated by the SPD IA Unit.
“All allegations of officer misconduct are thoroughly, objectively and promptly investigated to their logical conclusion,” he continued. “The IA investigators will interview the complainant, all witnesses and the subject officer; review all relevant reports and documents; review relevant body-worn camera and dash-mounted camera video recordings; and obtain and analyze all necessary information and materials.”
According to Zagorski, regardless of the results of the investigation, the complainant is sent a letter explaining the investigation’s outcome.
“If the allegation was unfounded or the officer was exonerated, this conclusion is stated and defined for the civilian complainant,” he said. “If the allegation was not sustained, the letter will provide the complainant with a brief explanation why the complaint was not sustained — for example, insufficient proof, lack of witnesses, etc. If the allegation was sustained and discipline was imposed, the letter will state that the allegation was sustained and that the officer has been disciplined according to agency policy.”