Paulsboro Adopts Rules Governing Police Conduct

Posted: April 24, 1991

Responding to more than a dozen allegations of police brutality and misconduct, the Paulsboro Borough Council last night adopted Police Department procedures for handling arrests and citizen complaints.

The rules also give the police chief more responsibility for handling citizen complaints and more power to investigate and discipline officers.

The regulations are "not designed as any type of punishment or to embarrass the department," said Gloucester County Prosecutor Richard E. Hickey 3d. "Now there is more strict accountability."

The changes were part of a series of steps the Borough Council has taken under pressure from Hickey's office and the state attorney general to revamp the Paulsboro Police Department.

Hickey's office began investigating the department after a 27-year-old man arrested on a domestic-violence charge was found hanged in the department's lockup in February 1990. County officials ruled the death a suicide, but his family contended the man died of injuries suffered during his arrest.

After the incident, the department received 17 other complaints of alleged officer misconduct. None of the cases ever reached court.

Hickey said an investigation into some of the charges uncovered serious deficiencies in department procedures.

The regulations were designed to update and improve what Hickey called ''piecemeal" rules that were adopted in 1977.

Under the rule changes, the police chief must act on complaints against officers within 45 days after the complaints are filed. The chief can dismiss the complaints or forward them to the prosecutor's office.

The rules also require officers to provide receipts for all items confiscated during arrests.

"These are things we can all live with," said Police Chief Roger DiStefano. "They are not punitive; they're positive changes."

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