Alpine, NJ – Long dogged by allegations of unfair behavior, the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police is finding itself under scrutiny yet again after an announcement Monday by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office appointing a monitor to supervise the department’s activities.
According to reports on NorthJersey.com (https://njersy.co/2zohmRJ) County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said that a deputy chief from his office would be investigating the parkway police and its procedures.
Grewal refused to share any details about what prompted the appointment saying only “there were a number of incidents that occurred over the last year that gave us reason to look further.”
But James Hall, executive director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, said that he believes the action to be related to two separate fatal incidents involving parkway police pursuits.
A Fort Lee man died in May after crashing his motorcycle while attempting to elude parkway police and a Bronx man who ran into the woods during a drug stop by parkway police died after falling off a nearby cliff in July.
A memorandum of understanding sent to VIN News by Grewal’s office said that the monitor and his staff will be conducting an expansive review of department policies and procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with guidelines established by the attorney general and the prosecutor and all relevant laws.
Among the areas to be investigated are the department’s administrative policies, internal affairs, training, evidence collection and storage, special services, personnel and information technology.
The monitor will remain in place for an unknown period of time at the discretion of the prosecutor and will have full authority to correct any problems identified during the review.
The Palisades Interstate Parkway Police has found itself in the media spotlight before. Chaverim founder Aron Kohn criticized the department for ticketing a member who stopped to help a stranded motorist change a flat tire at the Mobil station at the base of the northbound highway in 2016 as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2mQG2wa).
At the time, Kohn described ticketing a good Samaritan as “so not American” and noted that both Hatzolah and Chesed Shel Emes have had run ins with parkway police.
But Police Chief Michael Coppola defended his officer’s actions, saying that only authorized service providers are allowed to render aid on the parkway and that his department works closely with Hatzolah.
Efforts by lawmakers to disband the force in 2009 and to place it under the authority of the New Jersey State Police in 2010 because of alleged profiling both failed, with Hall noting that complaints of that nature had dropped significantly after the department installed dashcams in its police cruisers in 2008.
Chief Coppola did not immediately return calls for comment on the matter. An official statement on Grewal’s decision has yet to appear on the Palisades Parkway Police Department’s website as promised.