Neptune officials face backlash for asking police officers if they participated in Capitol riot
Neptune Township is backtracking after officials asked the township’s police officers if they participated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Officers were sent a form that said that they could be disciplined for failing to answer if they were there. But the police union says that this is a violation of the officers’ rights.
“This is so inept, I have to question the motivation,” says employment attorney Donald Burke, who has represented several Neptune officers and township employees in lawsuits.
A questionnaire was distributed, complete with a formal employment warning, and asked “Did you participate in the Jan. 6, 2021 siege on the U.S. Capitol? Check yes or no.”
“New Jersey really entrusts investigation of police officers to the Internal Affairs process. And it’s tightly controlled by the attorney general guidelines. And those police officers do have rights. This one runs afoul,” says Burke.
New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police president Bob Fox is not happy with the actions.
"Notably, there was absolutely no indication, complaint, or information to suggest that any Neptune Superior Officer was in any way involved in the Jan. 6 events in Washington D.C., The FOP concluded that this investigation was done for solely political purposes and was not based on fact or credible information,” Fox wrote in a statement.
The union’s labor council filed a grievance and the town backed off.
“This seems to be to run afoul of the principle that police officers are investigated by police officers,” Burke says. "And if theirs is an investigation, civilian oversight has to step aside.”
Burke says that there does not seem to be any evidence that Neptune police offices broke the law.
“If you go down and engage in First Amendment activity, it's perfectly acceptable and constitutional, but there's a line. Trespass is a line, violence is a line,” he says. “I can't imagine anyone would charge someone just for being there. There has to be a violation of the law."
The town’s mayor and business administrator were not available for comment.