NJ cop racially profiled drivers but police who reported it were suspended, lawsuit says
WESTFIELD — A patrolman is accused in a lawsuit of giving a white driver a pass for driving 40 miles per hour over the speed limit while ticketing a Black driver going 20 mph over the limit during the same shift.
Two members of the Westfield police filed the lawsuit against the town in late March. Sgt. Preston Freeman, a Black man, and Lt. Nicole Stivale, a white woman, claim they faced retaliation for reporting the "racially influenced policing."
“The Town has no additional comment at this time on this pending litigation, and the Chief of Police cannot comment on Internal Affairs investigations,” spokesperson Kim Forde told TapINTO Westfield. “The Westfield Police Department’s Internal Affairs standard operating procedure fully complies with the Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Policy and Procedure.”
Early on the morning of Jan. 30, 2021, Officer Christopher Forcenito was on shift patrolling the area of East Broad Street, according to the civil suit.
The complaint states that Forcenito pulled over a Black motorist for speeding shortly after midnight.
In body camera footage obtained by TAPinto Westfield, Forcenito tells the driver that he was going 22 mph over the speed limit and had an expired driver's license. The motorist replies that he applied to renew the license online.
“Instead of me giving you a speeding ticket, I’m just going to give you a ticket for having the expired driver’s license,” Forcenito can be heard saying. He adds that the ticket carries a $54 fine but no points.
About an hour later, Forcenito pulls over another motorist for a traffic stop, according to the lawsuit. The vehicle was going 65 mph in a 25 mph zone, according to the complaint and body camera footage.
In the video, the white driver tells Forcenito that he had a glass of wine. Forcenito lets the man go and tells him to drive slower.
“I don’t want to see you get hurt,” Forcenito says in the video.
The lawsuit stated that about an hour after the second traffic stop, Sgt. Freeman asked Forcenito about his decision to ticket one motorist but not the other. Forcenito responded that he did not have to give a ticket for speeding and that the motorist was a "nice guy," according to the complaint.
Freeman and Stivale each filed Supervisory Complaints against Forcenito after he refused to file a report explaining his decision, the lawsuit states.
The suit claims that instead of investigating Forcenito, the department launched an Internal Affairs investigation into Freeman and Stivale. In Jan. 2022, Freeman and Stivale were suspended for 45 days without pay.
Records show that Forcenito is paid a salary of $73,860.