Passaic County Sheriff’s Office under fire for questionable vehicle search | Paterson Times

Passaic County Sheriff’s Office under fire for questionable vehicle search


The Passaic County Sheriff’s Office is under fire after video of a questionable vehicle search went viral on social media on Friday morning. The video shows an unidentified man confronting a plainclothes law enforcement officer. The man accuses the officer of conducting a warrantless search of his van’s trunk.

It’s not clear when the incident occurred. The video was posted on Facebook on Friday morning. It has received almost 600,000 views. It is clear the incident took place on Union Avenue between Redwood Avenue and Jasper Street.

The incident has been referred to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office for investigation, said William Maer, spokesman for Passaic County sheriff Richard Berdnik.

“In an effort to assure an independent investigation of the circumstances around the search video, the Sheriff referred the matter to the Prosecutor’s office for a thorough and independent review,” said Maer on Friday afternoon.

“At this time, we can neither confirm nor deny any investigation conducted by the PCPO in relation to this matter,” said chief assistant prosecutor Mary Cate Ryan.

Maer did not say whether the officer had a warrant to search the individual’s vehicle. He also did not say when the incident occurred. Three high ranking current and former law enforcement officials interviewed for this report said the officer showed poor conduct by providing evasive answers when asked why the vehicle was being searched without the individual’s consent and failing to promptly identify himself as a law enforcement officer.

“Yo. What is you doing? What is you in my van for?” yells the man to the officer.

“I’ll tell you what, come here,” replies the officer as he walks away from the inquiring man.

“I’m not going over there. I’m going to stay in the middle of the street.”

“Come over here. Come here.”

“What is you in my car for when I’m sitting down, eating with my family,” says the individual to the officer.

The individual asks the officer how did he get access to the vehicle’s trunk. “It’s open. It’s wide open,” replies the officer.

“Still. Still. You’re not supposed to be in my van, sir,” the man is heard saying in the video.

“We had a lot of reports of guns in this van in this neighborhood,” the officer tells the man as justification for the search. Police cannot search vehicles without consent or warrants. However, there is something called the plain view doctrine that allows officers to conduct a search upon observing contraband inside a vehicle, said a former high ranking police official.

The video suggests the officer did not have a warrant. He also did not secure consent from the owner.

“This is incredibly troubling and disturbing,” said Ed Barocas, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey, after reviewing the video footage. “You have an individual who appears to be a law enforcement officer entering someone’s vehicle without permission and seemingly without any lawful authority. Not only is it improper, it’s a crime.”

Barocas described the officer’s evasive conduct as “unprofessional.” He wasn’t alone former and current law enforcement officials interviewed for this report also said the officer behaved in an unprofessional manner.

The officer’s identity has not been disclosed by the sheriff’s office. There were other officers at the scene. There were at least two marked sheriff’s vehicles at the scene. One of the officers offers to give his business card when the man demanded identification and badge number from the plainclothes officer.

The video also disturbed local leaders.

“How often are they doing this? Who gave him the authority to do it? What is the Passaic County Sheriff Department searching people’s cars at will? Was he looking for something or putting something there?” remarked Paterson activist Ernest Rucker.

“We don’t know if it’s just an unlawful search which is bad enough itself or something more nefarious,” said Barocas.

“It seems like an illegal search. They didn’t have the person’s consent,” said Zellie Imani, a leader of the Black Lives Matter in Paterson. “I’m really alarmed and upset about the whole situation.”

The incident did not involve officers from the Paterson Police Department, according to city officials.

This incident also creates a big liability for the Passaic County government if the individual files a lawsuit claiming his civil rights were trampled by the sheriff’s officers.

Barocas is glad the prosecutor’s office has been brought into the situation. He hopes the prosecutor will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident. “If there is no authority, as there appears not to be, this [then should] be prosecuted just as you or I would be prosecuted for breaking into someone’s car,” he said.

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  • Dominick Perez

    He should be charged with burglarizing the car and fired. Thank God this guy video taped it or else this criminal would've got away with this crime. Sue them!

    • Alex

      Can't fire the monkey who was following the chief of police's orders

      • nycityboy00

        the hell you can't

      • Get_All_The_Facts

        How about instead of tossing racist names around you actually read the article, fuckwad. It was an officer from the Passaic County Sheriff Department , so it would be the Sheriff's orders. But that's just a minor issue with your post. The use of 'monkey' is disgusting.

        • Brian Hannigan

          I don't think Alex was using that term in a racist manner. He's using the term to infer that the cop is a primate and not very smart. Alex may have proved himself to be dumb, but there's no evidence that he's a bigot.

          • Get_All_The_Facts

            There's also no evidence he's NOT a bigot. He should learn to avoid calling anyone a monkey. It's emotionally loaded. So, yes, he's an idiot, but he also might be a bigot.

          • Opus One

            Damn you bitches are sensitive…

          • Brian Hannigan

            Well, there's no evidence that you're NOT a Martian, but I'll base my assumptions of you on not only the content of your remarks, but also their intent. Calling someone a monkey MAY have a racist connotation, but not necessarily. It's obvious that Alex is using the term as an insult in the capacity of an organ grinder monkey and how he dances when he's instructed to dance, however incorrect that analogy may be in this case. His intent of the analogy is clear. The cop is the monkey and the chief is the man playing the organ grinder. It's not a racist statement just because you once heard someone use that term in a racist way. I find your user name ironic since you don't seem to even want to Get_All_The_Facts. Maybe you're in search of those "Alternative Facts" we hear about all too often. The distortion of facts can occur on the left as well as the right. Although, far more often, it seems, for the latter than the former. Don't try to twist things into something they're not.

          • Get_All_The_Facts

            Wow, Brian. Settle down. It's a simple lesson. Don't use racist terminology when it can be avoided. Unclench, man.

          • Brian Hannigan

            I guess you're still missing my point. Let me simplify it for you. Here it is. Now pay attention. IT'S NOT RACIST TERMINOLOGY JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK IT IS. There, nice and simple. Now read it a few times and work to understand it.

    • cathi3217

      If he had not been taping, they would have beat and tazed him and arrested him for disorderly and resisting.

      • Ptl_Mancuso

        There were enough of the KLAN there to beat the shyte out of him for being black.

    • NeonDisease

      The spineless DA won't prosecute this cop – you can bet a nickel on it.

      • Dominick Perez

        I agree with you, that's why the ACLU needs to make a lot of noise and shame the county prosecutor's office into charging the criminal with burglary, because that's what he did, he went into someone's vehicle without permission or a warrant and was rummaging around looking for sh*t that's burglary. Try doing that to one of the Sheriff's vehicles and you'll receive an a$$ whooping along with the charges.

        • NeonDisease


          Any one of us would DEFINITELY have ALREADY been charged if we got caught poking around inside a police cruiser.

          The hypocrisy is disgusting.

      • yes

        I bet my life on that one

  • A.H.

    When Officers act unlawfully they hurt the reputation of the police department as a whole and the trust between citizens and police. Sometimes that damage is irreversible. This is not OK. It is not OK to walk away when being asked for your name/badge number and give evasive answers about their conduct. The other officers should be held accountable too for covering for the guy. This is a crime and they should face the same punishment you or I would for breaking into a vehicles. Makes me wonder how many times this stuff has happened before and wasn't caught on camera.

    • Dominick Perez

      You're absolutely right. This happens all the time. They think because they have that badge around their necks that the law doesn't apply to them and they can do as they will… I hope this guy sues the Sheriff's Department for this burglary committed by one of it's deputies.

      • A.H.

        The law isn't something police officers can break, bend and twist. They are sworn to uphold it and that kind of unlawful behavior should be given double the punishment. When police aren't held accountable for their actions nothing will deter them from doing stuff like that. When the punishment is losing their right to work in law enforcement and being forced to give their pension to the victim this shit will stop.

        • Dominick Perez


        • Mskby

          Better yet…when it's illegal behavior they need to be prosecuted…when THAT happens it will put an end to the widespread corruption.

          • A.H.

            Yes, you are right. I agree with you on that 100%

        • Barbara White

          they break bend twist and interpret the law to their advantage all the time because there is no accountability, ask an officer and see what he tells you. He knows that court is basically on the side of the officer ….if you make it to court… so they take their chances and most times it pays off they get a paid vacation then back to work. I agree monetary losses usually change bad ass behavior

      • Mskby

        Part of the problem is that there aren't really any 'decent, honest cops' out there. The ones that are have been fired for being whistle-blowers…the rest are either corrupt, complicit or happen to live in nirvanastan, because that is the only place some form of LEO corruption isn't occurring that needs to be brought to light.

        • Dominick Perez

          That's like saying all Muslims are terrorists. I will agree that most of the honest ones would never snitch on their corrupt colleagues so in a way they too are a part of the problem.

          • Mskby

            So what you just did was insult my statement and then go on to agree with it. My statement was exactly that – that all police are either corrupt or ignoring/refusing to 'snitch' on the corruption, making them complicit – and you compared that to saying all Muslims are terrorists, which is an inaccurate comparison.

          • Dominick Perez

            No I'm trying to show you how dumb you sound, all cops are not corrupt and/or complicit,just like all Muslims are not terrorists.

          • Sam Joyner

            Being Muslim is,not an ethnicity. It a following of a faith like being Christian

          • Dominick Perez

            Neither is being a cop. Your point is???

          • WiserWords2

            Frank Serpico would agree.

        • A.H.

          What's really fucked up is how they have that whole "blue wall of silence" or as some street criminals would say "Snitches get stitches" The day you rat on your colleagues will be the day when you need backup ASAP and they take their sweet time to get there.

    • Quentin Dunmore

      That's why I left Detroit

    • Anthony Roberson

      But the do it and do the often, cops believe they are above the law and do what ever the feel.. as a black man I've been stop so many times for bullshit and they get away with, so any fucking cop tells my, I'm a person also, I will damn sure tell them.. "act like that when you have that uniform on also

    • Jordan Kittle

      Best comment

  • Tamara Byrd

    Does anyone knows the guy who made this video I need to contact him immediately

    • http://twitter.com/Xenophore Xenophore

      Nice try, officer. ;-)

    • Paul Thomas

      Fake account. Go find someone else to harass you insecure faggot

    • Yaadie

      Why, so your fellow officers can harass him.

    • NeonDisease

      fuck off, pig troll.

  • im still here

    i bet he was trying to plant something.

    no other reason.

    and the claim of plain view is crazy. that cop was clearly searching under a tire in the truck. no way that was in plain view.

    • Fatma Ali

      I agree, he looked suspicious as fuck when he got caught.

      Is this what black people have to go through everyday in America?? this is disgusting

      • Clarissa Lester

        fr he he even had a phone/camera out cuz wen homeboy got closer he was tring to put something in his pocket as he was trying to walk off

      • Quentin Dunmore

        The big 4 in Detroit in the 60s was notorious for junk like this .

      • http://freedomoftravel.lifestartsat21.com/lcp2/ allmessedup

        in answer to that question, yes

    • Dominick Perez

      There was nothing in plain view, because if there were the burglary victim would've been arrested.

  • Cthulhu

    Having a man bun should also be included in the charges.

    • Anonymous

      Namaste the fuck out of my trunk.

      • Joel B. Taylor

        He could've been shot by the owner. He never identified himself as a police officer. This was all out of control!!! The Stae Police and the States Attorney General's office should be involved. The owner should AND COULD sue the borough for this blatant illegal search! PERIOD!!!

    • Paul Thomas

      A charge of being a faggot

      • nycityboy00

        naw, we'll save that charge for you

        • magistralatina

          He's already confessed to being an asshole.

      • margaretpoa

        Whereas you've already stipulated to the charge of being a bigot.

        • Dominick Perez

          I'm a Trump supporter, read my comments about what this guy did.

          • margaretpoa

            Okay but like most Trump supporters you've gotten it all wrong. My comment was directed at Paul Thomas, who is apparently rabidly homophobic….just like Il Duce Arancia and Pope Pence. But congratulations! A Trump supporter who doesn't believe that being black in public is a criminal offense.


          • Opus One

            Fuckin fags

          • Dominick Perez

            Oh lighten up snowflake. You liberal woosies get offended for any little thing. You're more likely to find racists in the BLM gang then among us Trumpsters. Most of us just love our country and work hard supporting our families, we don't have much time on our hands to protest.

          • Lee McLaurin

            Uhh, but if you voted for Trump, you voted for the man who appointed an attorney general (Jeff Sessions) who's a racist. You can't complain about the problem while at the same time voting for the guy who wants to make the problem even worse. Or don't you know Jeff Session's history?

          • Dominick Perez

            I think you're the one who doesn't know his history, do you know how many Klansmen he put away. Just because CNN makes some shit up doesn't make it so.. By the way, did you know that former Senator Byrd, Hilliary's mentor, was a high ranking KKK member Who participated in lynchings?? Are you cool with that because they're Democrats?

          • WiserWords2

            You appear to be the one offended, snowflake. Many Trumpsters are unemployed and waiting for Trump to open up the coal mines.

          • margaretpoa

            What's a "woosie"? Is that an homage to the ignorance embraced and celebrated by your Il Duce Arancia? Ever serve your country? I did. And I don't particularly like what that fraft dodging, cowardly jackal is trying to do to it. How does it feel to support a traitor?

    • Felix Morningside

      That alone should get him state prison time

  • TylerDurden

    If there wasn't a warrant, it's breaking and entering. Man bun needs to do some time.

  • Agent Michael Scarn

    There are simple solutions to stopping this type of criminal behavior by law enforcement personnel. Prosecute them to the full extent of the law for their crimes just like any ordinary citizen. Lock them up just like any ordinary citizen. Put them in general population just like any ordinary citizen. The others will get the message. This includes the "officers" that circle the wagons and cover up the crime of their thug co-workers. No mercy for the wicked.

    • Dominick Perez

      It will never happen. This guy won't lose his job, much less get charged with the burglary. Unfortunately there's one set of laws for them and another for us peasants.

    • NeonDisease

      Or start "fearing for your life" and shoot them dead….just like a cop would do to you if you got caught snooping in a police car.

  • NeonDisease

    I will eat my shoe if this pig gets charged/convicted for….whatever I would be charged with for snooping inside a cop car without permission.

  • Narag

    Someday a plainclothes cop is going to get shot by someone who thinks the cop is a thief trying to rob their car.

  • wstockwin

    A really stupid cop just handed his victim the winning lottery ticket. Man-bun should be sent back to being a parking lot attendant, where it's easier to loot parked cars.

  • NotReveen

    There is no reason that he, or any of the other police officers on the scene, should ever be allowed to live outside of prison cells.

  • William O’Reilly

    It's why white men shouldn't be allowed to be cops. Way too many entitlement complexes.

  • Larry Strong

    How could anyone see what was inside the van to claim "in plain view" when the windows were tinted? What exactly did he see "in plain view" that gave him the authority to break into this man's van? Cops do this kind of thing, they plant something. Then later on, they execute a traffic cop and come up with some bogus reason to search the van. The driver, confident in his innocence or perhaps unaware of his rights, says, sure go ahead. Then the cops "find" something. We all know that no one will believe that citizen over a cop. That citizen goes to jail, prison for years. This has been going on for, like, forever.

    • Dominick Perez

      He didn't find anything because there was nothing in the van to be found, the guy who owned the van was inside the restaurant with his family eating dinner he isn't even from Paterson and didn't know any of the guys who the sheriffs had up on the wall by the Chinese place on the corner. This was an illegal search/car burglary plain and simple.

      • Larry Strong

        I hope the guy sees a lawyer first thing and bring criminal and civil rights charges against that cop.

        • Sheryl SC

          I think in NJ the officer will lose qualified immunity and CAN be sued personally. I hope this man gets the keys to this dirt bag thugs house and car.

      • Sheryl SC

        There's a better chance that he was planting something to be "discovered" at a later traffic stop.

  • Datu Kevz Nwede

    Too bad he didnt shoot him

  • Anthony Roberson

    just know this…. the D.A office is not going to do ONE damn thing to this cop, Nothing at all, cops get away with killing, so what they going to do to him… not one damn thing

  • Djo Khano

    Someone please out this A-hole.

  • bob fortner

    this man did the right thing to keep these criminals off the street you need to get over yourselves. he was suspicious he is a police officer he knows the law of the lands. if you have a problem you will never see progress

    • Get_All_The_Facts

      I don't understand who "these criminals" are. You mean the owner of the car, who had committed no crime? How is he a criminal?

  • Berkeley Suncookies

    It shouldn't be hard to find out what this policeman'sname is.

  • IceTrey

    All cops enforce immoral laws therefore they are all bad. They are a boot in the face not a helping hand. They exist to protect and serve the State not the People. They are nothing more than a criminal gang.

  • Colette Hylan

    I hope he took that video to the sheriff's dept and filed a formal complaint.

  • Melissa warner

    And cops wonder why they're hated and have no respect gee the possibilities are ENDLESS cops should start having there cars broken into and be treated the way they treat the public………with no regards to anyone but themselves, trigger happy to anyone babies, preggo women, the elderly, handicapped, disabled people, children, dogs *yes these piles of pukes will even shoot Yorkies and still claim they feared for there safety*, excessive force, corruption, trumped up charges that are beyond absurd and pathetic, overpaid, love wasting the tax payers money because THEY DON'T THE LAW FROM THERE ASSES TO A HOLE IN THE GRAND CANYON, beyond racist, knows the d.a. and judge will protect there worthless asses, no shame, should have a huge bumper sticker they or family members drive on the front, side, top bumper sticker on anything they drive even a vacuum cleaner that says SUPPORT HIGHER EDUCATION SEND A RETARDED COP TO THE FIRST GRADE, be treated like any other person who breaks the law

  • R J

    Cops are allowed to search without a warrant if there are illegal items in plain sight. That probably wasnt the case here though.
    The dood never actually said, "Don't search my car."

    • Barbara White

      he didn't need to the asshole stop and walked away as soon as he walked up….f there was something there he would have handcuffed or shot the owner of the vehicle. so there ya go….the search was illegal

      • R J


  • Dave-O

    Cops breaking the law?? Wow…that never happens!
    What did he have on him that he didn't have time to plant?

  • Felecia JonesakaMrs Peguero

    Wow so what was he planting? Hmm lawsuit..

  • Sharon

    I'm just amazed some fucktards are surprised…This behavior is just now being caught on video, PIGS have been VIOLATING folks rights, Making up "Laws", Planting "Evidence", ILLEGALLY stopping, searching & MURDERING Folks for…Forever

  • geoh777

    "Not only is it improper, it’s a crime.”"

    They make it into a nothingburger by refusing to prosecute.

  • Felix Morningside

    This officer commits a felony right in front of a gaggle of other officers in broad daylight on a public street. Imagine what must go on with these guys under the cover of darkness.

  • highroller2012

    This is Wrong! And they wonder why they get killed.

  • sanjidude

    It could also just be out and out attempted burglary on the part of the officer. If he had a legitimate reason to search that van, he would have a warrant. Even if he found something, he couldn't present it as evidence because he got it illegally. Either way, he was wrong and should be prosecuted. Just getting fired and rehired at another precinct is unacceptable.

  • Tom

    All the bad cops are giving the other 1% a bad name.

  • Tom

    Question: Did the corrupt cop put something IN the guy's vehicle?

  • Joel B. Taylor

    Why the HELL would law enforcement give organizations like "Black Lives Matter" or the ACLU and the NAACP ammunition to prove that their is illegal searches and seizures on "apparently" black folks just out and about eating with their families. WHY??? This was SO IDIOTIC I just can't believe it!!! The law is suppose to act WITHIN THE PERAMETERS OF THE LAW, not break the law!!! Did they forget we have a Constitution that protects the citizens of this country against this kinda 3rd world country or Communist country kinda mentality???

  • tom browne

    there is no crime so police need to CREATE crime. They place a gun in the car. Then the man driving home has no idea he is carrying a gun in his trunk. He is stopped by police "AT RANDOM" the gun is found and now you have the ":creation" of crime. I think that is what the man stumbled into.