The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office confiscated a computer from the troubled Palisade Park borough’s police department, an agency long distinguished by acrimony, chaos and corruption.
The Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment about the investigation.
The department serves a population of nearly 21,000 citizens with a staff that includes 41 sworn police officers, 11 special police officers and several civilian employees.
Strife has long plagued the law enforcement agency, which has been commanded by an officer-in-charge since Chief Mark Jackson retired in 2019 after a scathing report described weak leadership, outdated internal affairs and disciplinary policies that violated state guidelines in the department.
Borough officials hoped that hiring three police consultants would eliminate the difficulties experienced during the past decade, but two weeks ago, the mayor and council terminated their contracts with James O’Connor, a retired chief from Lyndhurst, Richard Molinari, a retired chief from Union City and R3 Strategies and Solutions, the consulting firm led by Robert Anzilotti, a retired Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office chief of detectives.
In the last decade, the borough has gone through four police chiefs and experienced a series of suspensions, lawsuits and internal conflicts— none of which is new.
Three Palisades Park police officers filed legal actions in February against the department’s officer-in-charge, Capt. Shawn Lee, following the January settlement of a lawsuit that resulted in the borough paying $120,000 to former Palisades Park officer Samuel Kim, who claimed that Lee harassed and bullied him ever since he was hired.
Kim now works for the Ho-Ho-Kus Police Department.
An investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI determined that a five rogue police officers, out of Palisades Park’s 17-member department at the time, had been burglarizing homes in the borough between 1991 and 1993.
“In Palisades Park, it’s a police department heavily influenced by politics,” said Brian Higgins, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and former chief of the Bergen County Police Department. “There’s a history here, and they seem to be going down the same road. The lawsuits are a telltale sign of where the department is headed if they continued down this road again.”
Higgins blames political influence in police departments. “
All the answers lie with the mayor and council,” he said. “The lawsuits leave large, glaring questions that should be addressed.”