Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Should Kenny Reid matter go to prosecutor?

Kenny Reid (second from left) posed with fellow police officers
in this 2005 campaign mailer photograph for
former mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

With the Plainfield City Council unanimously deciding to investigate the Police Division after supporters of Lt. Kenny Reid protested alleged pressures on him to retire, I wonder whether this whole matter needs to be turned over to the Union County Prosecutor.

Ordinarily, misdeeds that fall short of serious criminal prosecution are handled by the Division's Internal Affairs process. The process, used throughout New Jersey's police forces, allows for an officer accused of an infraction to have the matter heard before a Division-appointed hearing officer.

That officer may mete out punishment ranging from unpaid suspension to recommendations for demotion or even termination. The officer in question has the right of appeal to the Civil Service Commission, which may accept the hearing officer's findings or overturn them.

The subject of these proceedings does not normally come to public light.

Details of the Reid matter are not known to the public, though rumors are circulating in the community.

Reid has long been a source of morale issues dividing the force ever since his favored treatment by former mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

I expected this matter to play out in the normal disciplinary channels, but had my mind changed by new information Monday evening.

After leaving the Council meeting, I picked up a pizza to take home from a shop in a neighboring town, where I happened to bump into a retired Plainfield police officer. The officer casually remarked, "I don't understand the issue -- if the other three are guilty, why shouldn't he [Reid] be?"

The retired officer was reluctant to discuss the matter further.

So now, the question arise whether Reid's alleged misconduct involved other officers.

If so, how can the matter of his punishment be settled without compromising the rights of the other, unnamed, individuals?

Given that the selection of someone to conduct the "investigation" will be subject to the political divisions in the Council, and will be decided at a yet-to-be-announced special meeting, I wonder if justice for any of the officers involved will be hopelessly compromised by backroom intrigue (Councilor Taylor's famous "dirty politics") resulting in hiring someone who will deliver the verdict desired by a handful of Council members.

Perhaps the only way to ensure a modicum of fairness to all is to hand the matter over to the Union County Prosecutor, whose office is above the fray.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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