👨‍⚖️ Mayor says "illegal" tape was made by police looking for revenge

👨‍⚖️ Police officer says bodycam video show mayor's racist rant: "He is f***ing black"

👨‍⚖️ Murphy signed bill putting further restrictions on open records

SPOTSWOOD — A Middlesex County judge has blocked the release of police bodycam footage that a lawsuit claims shows the Spotswood mayor going on a racist tirade against a resident whose only mistake appears to have been the color of his skin.

The video is integral to a dispute between the Spotswood police and Republican Mayor Jackie Palmer. Police Officer Richard Sasso revealed the existence of the 2022 tape in a January lawsuit claiming the mayor had refused to promote him.

Newspaper publisher Gannett and a Spotswood resident had requested the video footage through an Open Public Records Act request, MyCentralJersey.com reported. In many cases, police bodycam footage is considered public records and can be obtained through a request to a municipality.

Superior Court Judge Michael Toto, however, blocked the release of the footage. He ruled that the video was not a government record, MyCentralJersey reported.

Spotswood Census quickfacts (Google Maps/Canva)
Spotswood Census quickfacts (Google Maps/Canva)

Bodycam video show mayor's racist rant, lawsuit claims

According to Sasso's lawsuit, the video shows Mayor Palmer's reaction to an incident over two years ago.

A commotion began when a Black borough resident showed up at the borough's municipal building on April 28, 2022. The man told Sasso that the mayor had repeatedly approached him with an aggressive attitude, according to the lawsuit.

Six days later, the man went back to the municipal building and employees called the police because they were uncomfortable. Police said they couldn't remove the man because he wasn't doing anything wrong, according to the lawsuit.

The cops' refusal to make the man leave agitated Mayor Palmer and she made several inflammatory comments, the lawsuit said.

Welcome sign for Spotswood, NJ (Photo credit: Zeete via Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0)
Welcome sign for Spotswood, NJ (Photo credit: Zeete via Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0)

“This is a business place that we don’t need some f***ing crazy person who’s constantly around here and the elephant in the room is that he is f***ing black and this is not a
diverse town, let’s be honest," said Palmer, according to the lawsuit. “I don’t need B.L.M. and the K.K.K. fighting on our front steps over this."

Quotes from the mayor's rant that a judge doesn't want you to see

These quotations are taken from the lawsuit.

"What makes me nervous is [the resident] is not f***ing right.”

“Well maybe today he f***in’ didn’t take his meds, or maybe today he decided he was taking a fucking knife from somewhere and maybe I can come upstairs and she’ll come out to go to the bathroom and he is wandering around here and I get f***ing shanked because he decided he wanted to wait to see me.”

“We know what we are dealing with here.

“Come up, be nice, and get [the resident] the f*** out of here.”

“What we need is to control the perception of what’s happening.”

Recording violated mayor's civil rights

Judge Toto's decision to prevent the bodycam footage from being released means the public can't verify what was said in Sasso's lawsuit.

He ruled that Palmer's civil rights were violated because the police officers did not notify her that she was being recorded on bodycam, MyCentralJersey.com reported. The release of the bodycam footage would also have revealed conversations in a confidential meeting.

Murphy weakens right-to-know with new law

Last week, Gov. Murphy signed a new law overhauling the state's open records laws. The second-term Democrat said that he would have vetoed the bill if he believed it would enable corruption.

RELATED: Murphy signs public records overhaul bill despite opposition

Advocacy groups, however, said the new law makes it easier for townships to draw out costly legal battles over whether the public has the right to some records — a major problem for individuals and news media.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo of welcome sign to Spotswood, NJ by Zeete (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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