Police Complaint: No Solution Yet

By on August 13, 2014

PoliceTechTechnology problems have hobbled the Verona Police Department since 2008. An end to those problems seems to be in sight, but it’s going to take until at least September before it materializes: The Town Council disclosed on Monday night that the report into the issues that had been expected from Michael Gannaio, the town attorney, was not yet complete. While the Council usually meets twice a month on the first and third Mondays, it only meets once in August, so the next opportunity for resolution won’t be until September 2.

As MyVeronaNJ.com reported on Monday, the Verona Police Department’s PBA Local 72 hired a lawyer who sent a letter to the town in July detailing a long list of problems with technology, such as broken radios and in-car computer systems. They disclosed that the town IT department, headed by Jeff Hayes, did not update the users of the computer system, which is known as Info-Cop, compelling current Verona police officers to use the log-in credentials of 18 retired officers. The PBA’s letter alleged that Hayes impeded Verona police access to a key national drug trafficking database, and said that the police must rely on Hayes to retrieve videos of witnesses and suspects, even though Hayes is not a sworn police officer and civilian involvement with evidence could be seen as corrupting the so-called chain of custody in an investigation.

According to the letter, police officers made Hayes and their superiors aware of the tech problems repeatedly over the years. The letter also asserted that Town Manager Joe Martin, who has previously characterized the town government’s relationship with the police as excellent, threatened the police officers involved in the letter.

At Monday’s meeting, Gannaio cautioned Council members to not speak about the police letter, which was presumably discussed in the portion of the meeting that is closed to the public, and the Council members for the most part complied. Councilman Frank Sapienza stated only that he had not received an email from MyVeronaNJ.com requesting comment for Monday’s story. [MyVeronaNJ.com has amended that story to reflect Sapienza's comments, and a similar statement by Mayor Bob Manley.]

Councilman Kevin Ryan thanked Gannaio for his work thus far on the matter. “I would like the people to be aware of the fact that the Council treated the request very seriously,” he said of the PBA letter. Ryan also indicated that he has circulated a draft resolution to the Council, which he plans to introduce at the next meeting. He did not disclose the subject of that resolution.

What is this?

In other technology news, Martin announced that Verona’s new 911 system has been ordered and the equipment should be delivered by mid-September. Martin said that installation and training in the system, which Verona will share with Cedar Grove, should take place in October, and that Verona should be filled switched over to the new system in November.

The Council approved spending $289,477 on the new 911 platform in January and Chief Doug Huber told the Council at that time that the vendor would be Cassidian Communications, the 911 vendor to West Orange and the New Jersey State Police, among others. The new 911 system was needed because Verizon had stopped supporting the current platform and it has suffered several outages including one on New Year’s Day, when it was down for several hours. Martin did not provide an update on upgrades to the Police Department’s nine-year-old computer-aided-dispatch system, which had also been approved in January. The approved spending included $137,542 on servers, software and network upgrades for the police and $57,609 on special purpose computing devices for them.

In addition, Councilman Ryan said that improvements to the recording system used at Planning Board meetings that he had requested had been made. The meetings had previously been recorded only to cassettes, and if members missed a meeting, they were required to get the cassette player to listen to the tape. Now the recordings are being burned to CDs, and multiple copies are being made.


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2 Comments

  1. John Castillo

    August 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Great coverage Virginia. I am amazed at this and the small town politics that are at work. I have a couple of questions that I think bear further inquiry and clarification.

    1- With reference to Info-Cop, why were Hayes & McCormack “abrasive and uncooperative”? Who made this allegation, Info-Cop? Was the allegation verified or just alleged? Who did Info-Cop make this known to in the town Gov’t? What action did any town official take, if any?

    2 – Why did Hayes refuse to allow the Feds access to Town’s IT infrastructure? Not allowing Feds access seems to me a decision that’s above Hayes’ pay grade! Wouldn’t that be decision for the Chief of Police? The Mayor? Or both?

    3 – Is Verona potentially in violation of any laws, whether state or federal, by allowing a civilian access to confidential investigative materials? I think, i recall, reading, that Hayes viewed a video of an interrogation; is that case potentially compromised because of Hayes accessing the evidence? Also, why did Hayes access the video(s)? Was it in response to a request for the video, i.e., a police officer or prosecutor, or was it simply for entertainment? Also, “chronic problems retrieving videos”–means?

    4 – Is Verona still out of compliance with the State Police and National Crime Information Center? What are the consequences or results of being non-compliant?

  2. Virginia Citrano

    August 13, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Excellent questions John. We hope they will be among the points addressed in Michael Gannaio’s report, and we hope that that report will be made available to the public without an Open Public Records Act request. To your question about allegations, at this point, everything in the PBA’s letter must be regarded as an allegation. We are doing our part to investigate each claim as well.

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