Two wretched revelations have bubbled to the surface of the cess pool of so called criminal justice in New Jersey. These situations need to be viewed as par for the course – in a situation that is so thoroughly pervasive. Those responsible for overseeing the misapplication of criminal justice, locally, in NJ statewide and nationally – they subvert truth and use disinformation to hide the true motivations behind this wretched arrangement. But when tid bits of truth surface – it is important for those of us that consider ourselves decarcerators, abolitionists or reformers to be prepared to utilize the opportunity – to seize the moment to demand appropriate relief *for the victims* of such corruption in the application of criminal justice.
Often the reaction of the public to these issues as they arise is to demand justice in the form of punishment for the culpable criminal justice officials. However, as decarcerators, we need to take a different tact. We need to be better organized to the point so that as these issues bubble over – we can take full advantage by demanding relief for the victims – those accused, arrested, convicted based upon the shoddy or fake evidence and racist policing.
One issue that has been in the news lately is that a key staff member of a NJ State Police crime lab was caught making up test results – not even bothering to test marijuana evidence – yet drawing conclusions without actually doing any testing. Apparently this corrupt official, Kamalkant Shah, was connected to nearly 8000 cases.
Another interesting development is the e-mail that surfaced from the Chief of Police of Wyckoff New Jersey directing the officers under his command to racially profile Black men in that town.
“I think that most police officers are finding the national rhetoric about police abuse and racial profiling quite upsetting. Profiling, racial or otherwise, has it's place in law enforcement when used correctly and applied fairly. Unfortunately we have never heard that from our President, top political leaders or our US Attorney General. Don't ask the police to ignore what we know. Black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff. That's why we check out suspicious black people in white neighborhoods. White kids buy heroin in black NYC neighborhoods. That's why the NYPD stops those white kids. The police know tl1ey are there to buy drugs. It's insane to think that the police should just "dumb down" just to be politically correct. The public wants us to keep them safe and I'm confident that they want us to use our skills and knowledge to attain that goal. My major concern is that all of this misguided complaining about police officers will cause an officer to react slower to something you might perceive as a threat. That delay could be deadly. Continue to do your job relying on your training, instincts and knowledge: A common thread in the recent national incidents are persons who resist the police. That resistance then creates your counter reaction. We don't run from fights. This department has a history of being respected by the public. Each of you contribute to that daily. Continue to be fair with people and treat them with respect. If someone resists your authorized demands, use your counter reaction as the law allows and you have my 100% support should others complain. If you have done your job correctly, they don't want to get me on the other end of the phone. Above all, do what you have to do and that which the law allows you to do to remain safe.”
Each of these situations call for – demand – a decarceration response.
In the case of the corrupt NJ State Police lab – we did launch a petition. We have demanded that every one of the cases tainted by the corrupt official – every conviction – be vacated. (Please sign: https://www.change.org/p/john-jay-hoffman-acting-attorney-general-vacate-charges-and-convictions-from-corrupt-official-at-njsp-crime-lab?recruiter=8123081&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink )
There also is a legal office that is filing paper work to sue on behalf of clients harmed by this apparently perjuring NJ State Police lab employee.
However the outcry should be louder. This is blatant – right before everybody’s eyes – they admit that they have been framing people up on drug charges in NJ. As a retired NJ based defense attorney that signed the petition referenced above stated in a comment on the petition:
“I am signing because I am a retired New Jersey lawyer. I take the same oath as the NJ State Police. You must do this in accordance with that oath. I saw some shaky lab reports in my time as an attorney. When I asked for sample back for independent testing, this is when I won my case. I was left with an uneasy feeling about the particular lab reports where that happened. Not all clients can afford an independent lab test so the samples were not often requested by the defense. I knew that.” Kathleen Feeney, Esq.
In the case of the Wyckoff Chief letter – it is up to decarcerators and other lovers of justice to make the demand that history of policing under this chief in Wyckoff be reviewed and that every case involving Black arrestees be reviewed to determine if there was bias or other illegalities in the handling of the cases. If so, relief needs to be provided in the form of vacated sentences and convictions for those victims of injustice.
We need to draw our ranks tighter so that we can make more effective responses as these issues continue to surface and we need to analyze across the board to help explain why in NJ we end up with a situation that 65% of those incarcerated in NJ’s prisons are Black. The system should know that under no circumstance would it ever dream of carrying itself in this way – instead it acts with impunity.
These two revelations scratch the surface. Criminal justice in NJ and throughout the US is wrought with these pervasive criminal behaviors by the enforcers, the legal experts, the prosecutors, the sentencers, the punishers.
How can we – the Decarcerators – the Abolitionists – the Reformers – make it clear to the “powers that be” that the business as usual of racial profiling, locking up innocents on false pretenses, the test-alying by police and lab officials will continue only at the peril to the system? What must we do to get this message across clearly?
If you want to help make this happen - call 908-881-5275 or write Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org