Monday, April 18, 2016

Police say that only victims can report crimes. No reports taken from those who learn about possible crimes through records requests.

Update 04/21/16:  I received a voicemail from the Manchester Police which I've transcribed here:

Hey Mr. Paff, Captain [Todd M.] Malland from the Manchester Township Police.  I'm calling back on behalf of chief Parker regarding this letter you sent on Monday the 18th. I apologize for taking a couple days get back to you but I had to do some research myself. 
It is customary for what the dispatcher said that we wouldn't generally take a third party especially in this kind of  matter if you're not directly related to what's going on although you did it a noble thing by letting us know. 
 I called the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office of Financial crimes unit, they're aware of it and it has - whatever direction at the State -- it's being handled at the Attorney General's office. The Attorney General's office is handling any potential criminal proceedings in this and that's basically the way the hierarchy works.

You know we has municipal officers are under the control and authority of the county and then the county is obviously under the control or authority of the state. So we can't supersede them at the municipal level and we won't.
So at some point if the county prosecutor's office got involved, and they were told by the Attorney General's office that they would be handling it and to kind of cease and desist and they were to be investigating it.
There is some kind of investigation going on but it's at the state level.
So, I appreciate the call.  If you have any further questions you are welcome to call me back.  
-----original blog post

I wrote the following letter today to Manchester Township (Ocean County) Police Chief Lisa D. Parker after I was told that I couldn't report a possible third-degree theft charge because I was not the victim of the theft.  I'll update this blog with the Chief's response, if I receive one.

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April 18, 2016

Chief Lisa D. Parker'
Manchester Township Police Department
1 Colonial Drive
Manchester, NJ 08759-3898
Via Fax only to 732-657-2764

I have a question about a report of possible third degree theft charges I made to Dispatcher No. 522 by way of a telephone call I placed to the Department's non-emergency number, 732-657-6111, at 11:31 this morning.  This dispatcher, who was very professional and cordial, advised me that unless I was a victim of the alleged theft offenses, he could not take a report from me.  He told me that my status as a third-party was not sufficient to initiate an investigation into this matter.

By way of background, I blog on issues that I feel are of public concern.  On April 13, 2016, I wrote an article entitled "Prominent Ocean County lawyer charged with misappropriating client funds" that concerned a formal ethics complaint alleging that a lawyer who maintains an office in Manchester Township at 2915 Ridgeway Road willfully misappropriated client funds.

The article contains a link to that complaint.  Paragraph 64 of that complaint claims that on May 2, 2011, the lawyer withdrew $14,822 from a now-deceased client's PNC Bank account and on November 9, 2011 he withdrew $20,000 from the same account and in both cases deposited those funds into his personal account.

These allegations, if true, would constitute third degree theft charges as defined by Title 2C Chapter 20 of the New Jersey Statutes.  And, since N.J.S.A. 2C:1-6 provides for a five year statute of limitations for prosecuting these offenses, the deadline for filing charges, if such charges are warranted, is rapidly approaching.

I do not know whether or not the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), the agency that brought the ethics charges against this lawyer, referred the matter to any law enforcement officials.  In case the OAE did not make the referral, I felt that I should initiate one on my own, which is why I called your Department this morning.

Your dispatcher's decision to not take my report seems wrong to me.  I would think that your Department would want citizens to come forward with information concerning crimes that may have occurred within its jurisdiction regardless of how they came to be informed of the unlawful acts.  The fact that your departmental website contains a confidential "tip line" suggests that your Department encourages all people--victims and non-victims alike--to report possible violations of the law.

Would you please let me know whether the information your dispatcher imparted to me accurately reflects Departmental policy?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

John Paff