HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html New Jersey Troopers Avoid Jail In Case That Highlighted
Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jan 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Section: New York Region
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Author: David Kocieniewski
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


TRENTON -- Nearly four years after they shot three unarmed men during a 
traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, two New Jersey troopers were 
allowed to plead guilty to reduced charges today and were spared both jail 
time and probation.

The turnpike shooting came to symbolize the frustration of black and Latino 
motorists who had complained for years that they were being unfairly and 
illegally singled out by police officers based solely on their skin color. 
And it helped ignite a heated national debate about the proper use of 
profiling in police work, particularly in drug interdiction policy, with 
critics calling it racist but some law enforcement officials saying it was 
simply good police work.

The legal finale to the case today outraged longtime critics of racial 
profiling. Civil rights leaders have vowed to press state officials to 
discipline the supervisors who taught racial profiling and to adopt a new 
law making it a crime.

"This was not justice," said the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, executive 
director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey. "And we will not 
stop until justice is ours."

Yet as the criminal charges in the shooting came to an end today, and the 
Justice Department agreed not to prosecute the troopers, John Hogan, 32, 
and James Kenna, 31, on federal charges, even civil rights leaders conceded 
that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the practice has become even 
more pervasive. Since Sept. 11, thousands of Middle Eastern men have been 
apprehended and questioned with little public protest in the government's 
terrorism investigation.

The two men who began the furor by firing 11 shots into a van carrying 
black and Latino men from the Bronx on April 23, 1998, publicly 
acknowledged today for the first time that they had stopped the vehicle 
because its occupants were black and Latino. The troopers said their 
supervisors had trained them to focus on black- and brown-skinned drivers 
because, they were told, they were more likely to be drug traffickers.

But both troopers went on to describe the shooting as self-defense, and 
each insisted that he only opened fire after the van backed up toward 
Trooper Hogan and knocked him to the ground.

Prosecutors then asked the judge to spare the troopers probation, noting 
that both men had been carrying out the policies they had been taught. 
Judge Charles A. Delehey of State Superior Court in Mercer County agreed, 
noting that both men would lose their jobs and that Trooper Kenna, who had 
been involved in a shooting in March 1998, had received inadequate 
counseling before being rushed back into duty.

"You are victims not only of your own actions but of the system which 
employed you," the judge said, issuing each man a penalty of a $280 fine.

The New Jersey attorney general's office ended a civil suit last February 
by agreeing to pay a $12.9 million settlement to the victims.

Troopers Hogan and Kenna, who are both white, each pleaded guilty to 
obstructing the investigation by lying about the incident to internal state 
police investigators in the days after the shooting. They also acknowledged 
intentionally misrepresenting the race of drivers they had stopped on other 
occasions, to conceal the fact that they were singling out blacks and 
Latinos. They had been charged with aggravated assault; Trooper Kenna had 
also faced a charge of attempted murder. Both men also agreed to resign 
from the state police.

Although the criminal case is now over, racial profiling is likely to 
remain a potent political issue and dilemma within the law enforcement 
community. When the shooting took place in 1998, it came to dominate Gov. 
Christie Whitman's second term, leading to an investigation by the Justice 
Department's Civil Rights Division and, eventually, to a court-appointed 
monitor to oversee the state police.

But the inquiry also caused a reassessment of national drug policy. Much of 
the training provided to New Jersey troopers was based on the Drug 
Enforcement Administration's Operation Pipeline, which was intended to 
disrupt the shipment of cocaine on highways along the East Coast and in the 
Southwest. The policy emphasized the correlation between drug trafficking 
and racial characteristics. During the presidential campaign of 2000, 
George W. Bush and Al Gore both decried racial profiling and promised to 
take steps to end the practice if elected.

The intensive hunt for terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks, which is 
being supervised by Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, has also 
brought new complaints that the Justice Department is using profiling to 
single out Middle Eastern men.

But in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last November, Mr. 
Chertoff, who led the New Jersey Legislature's inquiry into profiling by 
state troopers, said that federal agents were using race as only one factor 
in the terrorism inquiry and were focusing their efforts on suspects who 
associated with terrorists or whose travels and activities made them worthy 
of further questioning.

In New Jersey, state officials have taken several steps to end profiling in 
recent years. After the Justice Department discovered evidence that blacks 
and Latinos were being stopped and searched in disproportionately high 
numbers, and that the attorney general's office had not been forthcoming 
with its statistics, the Whitman administration entered into a consent 
decree and agreed to allow a court-appointed monitor to oversee the department.

The State Legislature's hearings led to calls for the impeachment of State 
Supreme Court Justice Peter G. Verniero, who had been attorney general when 
the state police were concealing information from the federal inquiry, but 
the measure was blocked in the State Assembly.

A new state police superintendent was also brought in, and according to 
Kenneth J. McClelland, president of the State Troopers Fraternal 
Association, the force has improved since the days when Troopers Hogan and 
Kenna were taught to single out drivers based on their skin color.

But Trooper Kenna's lawyer, Jack Arsenault, said that the supervisors 
responsible for teaching and rewarding profiling had never been punished. 
Mr. Arsenault praised the judge and prosecutor for allowing the two 
troopers to escape jail time but said that the state had not done enough to 
change the culture of the department."There's no joy today, only an 
ending," Mr. Arsenault said.

Mr. Jackson also criticized the prosecutor, James J. Gerrow Jr., for ending 
the case without taking disciplinary actions against any of the supervisors 
who tolerated profiling or the other officers who urged the troopers to 
lie. "Not one superior officer has been named," he said. "Not one superior 
officer has been removed from employment with the New Jersey State Police."

Troopers Kenna and Hogan wept after the judge announced his decision and 
they were hugged by family members and supporters. Outside the courthouse, 
they also directed brief apologies to the three men who were wounded.

"I've been thinking about you ever since this occurred," Trooper Kenna 
said, speaking to a mass of reporters and television cameras. "I'm sorry."

A lawyer for two of the wounded men, Jarmaine Grant and Danny Reyes, said 
they were disappointed that the troopers had not been sentenced to jail 
time for their actions but gratified that as part of their plea bargain, 
Troopers Hogan and Kenna had signed statements that they would never work 
as police officers again.

"Danny and Jarmaine are very pleased that one condition of the plea is that 
neither of these guys will ever work in law enforcement again," said the 
lawyer, Peter Neufeld. "It's very important to them that no one will ever 
again be victims of these troopers."
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