The early warning system rolled out at the Paterson Police Department four years ago flagged the two police officers — Jonathan Bustios and Eudy Ramos – charged by the FBI with violating citizens’ basic rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
Police director Jerry Speziale said his department notified federal authorities. Indeed, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited police director Speziale and police chief Troy Oswald for their assistance in the investigation that led to the arrests.
“The early warning intervention system flagged irregularities and issues. And as a result of that we brought this to the FBI,” said Speziale. “We participated with them for the last 14 months.” He could not disclose the specific red flags that prompted the police department to approach the FBI.
Bustios, 28, and Ramos, 31, both city residents, were arrested on Wednesday morning. Bustios and Ramos were both charged with conspiracy to deprive persons of civil rights. Also, Bustios is charged with extortion under color of official right.
Both men began working for the police department in Jan. 2014, according to municipal payroll data. Both officers are in process of being suspended without pay, said Speziale.
“Wow,” said city council vice president Luis Velez when told of the arrests. “It’s another sad day for Paterson.”
“It’s embarrassing,” said councilman Michael Jackson, chairman of the public safety committee. “I’m happy this has been brought to light. It’s another blemish on our city, but it’s necessary cleansing.”
The FBI conducted surveillance on both police officers, according to charging documents.
“What I can tell you is this system works,” said Speziale. “We made sure that we rooted out corruption here at the Paterson Police Department. We will never tolerate it nor will we stand for it.”
Speziale said police officers work “tirelessly” to serve residents. “Now, they are painted with a bad brush,” he said. Hard working police officers serve the public every single day, he said.
The false arrests, warrantless searches, and other illegal conducts are routinely cited by attorneys in lawsuits against the city.
“All I can tell you is, we’re in front of it,” said Speziale. He said the Internal Affairs Pro, the early warning system, was put in place in 2014.
Speziale would not say whether other officers have been flagged by the system and are under investigation.
The FBI chronicles two incidents involving the two accused police officers.
Feb. 20, 2018: Bustios, riding inside vehicle 110, activated his siren to pull over a dark BMW sedan on Bergen Street at around 1:02 p.m. Ramos stopped in front of the pulled over car.
Bustios searched the African-American male driver of the vehicle after which placing him in the rear of his vehicle. At the same time, Ramos searched the passenger. Both police officers searched the back seat of the sedan, trunk, and under the hood. Both occupants of the vehicle were eventually held inside Ramos’s vehicle, 108.
The search was conducted without any warrants.
At 1:24 p.m., Bustios drove away from the scene while Ramos remained in his vehicle. While stopped at traffic, Bustios removed a white plastic bag, took out cash, and began to count.
Bustios continued counting when the light changed to green while driving. He then folded the cash in half.
At 1:34 p.m., Bustios parked and got out of his vehicle. He then re-renterred the vehicle, took out a second plastic bag and held a revolver in his hand. After handling the revolver, he began driving.
At 1:36 p.m., Ramos, who had remained at the scene, got out of his car, opened the rear doors to release the two people detained without justification.
Both police officers, under surveillance, drove away from their separate locations.
The FBI identified a phone call between the two police officers that lasted 1 min. and 30 sec. at 1:35 p.m. Bustios likely told Ramos to release the detainees, according to charging documents.
At 1:50 p.m., both police officers parked their vehicle under a highway overpass in Paterson. Bustios brought out the recovered cash and passed it to Ramos. He also showed a revolver to Ramos.
Neither of the two officers ever reported the stop, search, detention, handcuffing, and releasing of the two individuals. The recovery of cash was never mentioned in their activity log or documents.
Ramos in his log wrote “checked out” and Bustios wrote “assisted” in the disposition and comment section.
Both officers submitted an offense report to the department. Their report said, a concerned citizen approached them when both men were dispatched to 159 Lyon Street at about 2:03 p.m.
The concerned citizen told them the garage of 155 Lyon Street was a stash spot, both wrote in the report. A property check was done and two black and silver handguns and five .38 caliber rounds were recovered.
Video surveillance contradicted their report. From 2 to 2:08 p.m., both exited their vehicles and returned to them at 2:16 p.m. with only cellphones in hand, no guns.
Neither officers interacted with a concerned citizen, visited a stash house, or obtained two firearms at once.
One gun was obtained from the BMW search and a second was obtained after searching a premises and detaining a third person. These facts were missing from their police report.
Both officers signed and submitted a “materially false” police report to “conceal” their “illegal conduct.”
Mar. 14, 2018: Bustios detained man in the back of his police car.
“How about this. I won’t charge you with resisting arrest. Because that’s what you did. You resisted my arrest. That’s why I had to call more people over there. So, that’s my word. I will not charge you with resisting arrest,” Bustios told the suspect.
“What’s the other charge” asked the man.
“Possession,” replied Bustios.
“(Inaudible) distribution?” said the suspect.
“Yea, basically,” replied Bustios.
Bustios told him it was possession and distribution. The interaction was caught in court ordered video and audio surveillance within and in the vicinity of vehicle 110.
The suspect is heard mentioning four bricks, 50 packets of heroin. Bustios tells him three bricks and then two bricks.
There was some haggling on the charges between the suspect and the officer.
“Alright bro, how about this, how about no deal, how about that, I’ll just charge you with everything,” Bustios told him.
Bustios offered not to take the suspect’s suspected drug money.
Bustios is providing an incentive for the suspect to give him the location of a firearm.
“Are you going to pick it up with me in the car?” asked the suspect.
“You don’t want me to?” replied Bustios.
“I don’t want the gun charge,” the suspect retorted.
“I just told you, I’m not gonna charge you. How many times do I have to tell you, man?” remarked Bustios.
The suspect makes a phone call and gives the officer the location of a gun.
“Just go down Governor, under the bridge. I’ma look for it,” the suspect told him. At 2:30 p.m., Bustios stopped to look for a gun in a brown bag, but couldn’t find it.
The suspect provided a second location. A handgun was recovered. The charging documents do not provide a location.
Bustios submitted an arrest report of the suspect. He did not charge him with resisting arrest. He failed to mention he had recovered a gun. He did not turn in the gun he recovered, according to charging documents.
“Hopefully this is a learning moment for others,” said Velez.
When told the police department flagged the officers and invited the FBI, Jackson remarked: “That’s a great sign. It lets us know we can still depend and trust some of the people we do have in place and that they will do the right thing. Not everybody is buying the notion that you can do anything in Paterson.”