A police chief has been sacked following the release of dashcam footage showing police officers in Maplewood Township, New Jersey ordering a forced march of black children into a nearby city.
Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino was suspended with pay for 60 days. An alleged accomplice, Capt. Joshua Cummis, was suspended with pay for 30 days. Additionally, the Maplewood Township Committee unanimously approved a motion of no confidence in Cimino and requested he resign immediately. Both Cimino and Cummis earn base salaries in excess of $160,000 per year.
The suspensions come more than one year after the initial incident occurred. On July 4, 2016, multiple members of the Maplewood Police Department attempted to disperse young black Independence Day partygoers by forcing them off the streets into neighboring Irvington. Four teenagers were ultimately arrested that night but they alleged that police used excessive force while trying to force them to march out of their own town.
Those accusations were apparently very much on point.
In the shocking video, synched with audio culled from police radio broadcasts that same night released by the township, a group of at least a dozen Maplewood Police Officers are seen forcing children down a road as blue and red lights flash in the distance. One unidentified police officer can be heard taunting the children, “Having fun yet?”
Cimino himself appears on the recording, telling officers: “We’re going to send them east.” Cummis’ voice then outlines the particulars and the goals of the forced march operation:
“Notify Irvington they are going down Elmwood toward their town…Once they reach the Irvington border and they’re in Irvington, I want you to maintain our border…Maplewood units, I want them to maintain, once they leave our town, maintain our border.”
The children were somewhat hesitant to leave their own town, however, and some resisted the order to march into adjacent Irvington. Police then allegedly used pepper spray to maintain the Maplewood border. The use of oleoresin capsicum–pepper spray–was defended by Maplewood Police at the time due to an alleged fight. That excuse appears to be untrue.
At roughly three minutes into the video, a commotion breaks out. Quickly, a large group of cops descends upon one of the children who is summarily pummeled, punched, and kicked by police officers who rush up and crowd around the kid before he is eventually subdued.
Members of the Maplewood Township Committee registered their disgust. Frank McGehee said:
“Black children…were herded like cattle out of Maplewood, a town that many of these children call home. There’s no greater message that you are not welcome than being driven out of your hometown simply because of the color of your skin. When did being Black become a qualifying factor regarding residency in Maplewood?”
Residents were also taken aback by the actions of the township’s law enforcement leadership. The SOMA Black Parents Workshop sent a lengthy letter to New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Perrino requesting an official investigation into the actions of the Maplewood Police Department.
Local prosecutors have declined to charge any of the officers involved.
[image via screengrab; video courtesy New Jersey 101.5]