NJ police chief was buying cocaine online, prosecutor says
A North Jersey police chief who already was at risk of losing his job has now been charged with buying coke.
Palisades Interstate Parkway Police Chief Michael Coppola was arrested Thursday after being pulled over by Bergen County Prosecutor's Office agents.
Prosecutors said Coppola had been ordering cocaine online and having it shipped to a post office box he owned.
As part of their investigation, which involved the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Homeland Security, detectives placed a package of fake cocaine in Coppola's post office box.
On Thursday, after Coppola retrieved the package, detectives pulled him over on Route 80 in Ridgefield Park and charged him with third-degree attempt to possess cocaine and a disorderly persons offense of paraphernalia.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Thursday whether Coppola had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Coppola already is in the middle of a three-month suspension after a Bergen prosecutor's investigation last month found that he oversaw a reckless police department that routinely violated state rules governing high-speed chases. The department also gave $200 bonuses to cops who wrote the most tickets.
New Jersey 101.5 drew attention to the department's tactics in a 2015 report about whether a wild 30-mile chase violated state rules and needlessly endangered lives. (You can see the video of that chase below.)
A defiant Coppola at the time called New Jersey 101.5's questioning a "witch hunt" and called on the media company to file a complaint requesting an internal investigation.
Last year, a drug suspect fleeing police fell to his death off a palisades cliff. Prosecutors said the department failed to notify county about the death.
The prosecutor's report last month also faulted Coppola for having an IT company he owned provide services to the department. Even though the company was not paid, officials said it was a potential conflict of interest.
The department has been monitored by the prosecutor's office since last year.
The Palisades Interstate Parkway Police Department exists independently of any municipality. The police patrol the Palisades Interstate Park and the Palisades Interstate Parkway at the New Jersey and New York border.
Lawmakers have called for the department to be disbanded and to have its duties turned over to the State Police.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.