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Authorities Probe Wyckoff Police Racial Profiling Memo

Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox
Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT file photo

WYCKOFF, N.J. -- Authorities today confirmed that they are investigating a Wyckoff Police Department email that "on its face" appears to advocate racial profiling.

“Profiling, racial or otherwise, has it’s (sic) place in law enforcement," the email from Police Chief Benjamin Fox says, according to the ACLU-NJ.

"Don’t ask police to ignore what we know," says the email, apparently sent to the entire department. "Black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff. That’s why we check out suspicious black people in white neighborhoods.”

Acting New Jersey Attorney General Robert Lougy and Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal issued a joint news release Tuesday morning that said "we have received the complaint from the ACLU and a copy of the email at issue."

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

Daily Voice emailed Fox for a response.

The American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey demanded that authorities fire Fox, retrain officers and conduct audits for "both racially biased policing and use of force."

“When you look at everything we know about the kind of policing that fosters trust between officers and communities, this email shows Wyckoff heading in the opposite direction,” ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom said.

“Encouraging police officers to act with racial bias is unacceptable," Shalom said. "Sowing mistrust at this level damages civil rights, and it threatens public safety by diminishing the faith people have in the police.

"If Chief Fox sent the email, community members — and the police department — will need real accountability to heal from this fractured and divisive approach to policing.”

The email addressed from Fox was written in 2014 but anonymously shared with the ACLU-NJ a little over a week ago, Shalom said.

It "encourages officers to violate both state and federal civil rights laws that ban racial profiling, as well as an official statewide policy established through Attorney General directive that prohibits racially influenced policing," he said.

The ACLU-NJ filed an Open Public Records Act request with the Wyckoff Police Department "to understand whether the organizational culture as demonstrated in the email has affected police practices there.

The request seeks arrest data, use of force reports, stop-and-frisk numbers, training materials, and email correspondence containing “profiling,” among other records.

The ACLU-NJ also sent a letter to Grewal, Wyckoff Mayor Kevin Rooney, the Wyckoff Township Committee, "and fellow advocates for police accountability, including the Bergen County NAACP, NAACP New Jersey State Conference, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives," Shalom said.


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