NAACP calls for special prosecutor

May 15, 2009 8:41:27 PM PDT
A branch of the NAACP has asked Gov. Jon S. Corzine to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the way officials handled complaints made against police by two black men, who claimed separately they were racially profiled and assaulted. Branch President Phillip Warner said Friday that prosecutor Sean Dalton, who is white, improperly failed to investigate former South Harrison Township Mayor Charles Tyson's complaint that a police officer pushed him last September.

Warner also said federal civil rights laws may have been broken with the prosecution of a second man, Terence Jones, who complained in 2007 that a Woolwich Township police officer pulled him over improperly. The only charges that came of that complaint were against Jones, who later was acquitted.

Warner, of the Gloucester County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said his office was planning to file ethics charges against Dalton.

Dalton responded to questions Friday with a statement that his office "investigates each and every allegation thoroughly and aggressively, consistent with the New Jersey attorney general's guidelines on internal affairs and bias crime cases."

Corzine spokesman Robert Corrales said Friday he couldn't respond to the NAACP's request because the governor's office hadn't received details of what was being sought.

Both the cases go back to early 2007 in an area about 20 miles south of Philadelphia where farm fields are quickly giving way to large houses.

That year, Tyson became the first black mayor of South Harrison Township, where the 66-year-old had lived his entire life and where he said he had never experienced racial tension before.

Almost immediately after he became mayor, he began receiving death threats on his voice mail. He also says the letters "KKK" were scrawled on his lawn and his tires were slashed. A Virginia man was charged last year in the case.

Warner said that last year Tyson told authorities that a police officer pushed him. But, Warner said, Dalton didn't investigate because he apparently didn't find the claims credible.

Earlier this year, Tyson stepped down as mayor but remained a member of the town committee. He said Friday the fallout from the shoving incident was a major reason he left the seat.

"I felt like I can't trust my police department," he said.

The other case began in February 2007. Jones, a friend of Tyson's who lived in one of the big new homes in South Harrison, said a police officer pulled him over after he had made a U-turn in a parking lot in Woolwich Township.

Jones wasn't charged with any crime and said he believes he was the victim of racial profiling.

He wrote a letter to the police chief in Woolwich about the incident. Later, Dalton prosecuted him on charges of making a false report.

Jones, a former Philadelphia police officer, was acquitted last year. If he had been convicted, he could have faced up to 18 months in prison.

Jones said law enforcement officials are too interested in protecting their own.

"The prosecutor's office bleeds blue to the point, I believe, of being criminal," he said.

Jones has filed a lawsuit against Dalton and others. In legal filings, they deny wrongdoing.

The NAACP's Warner said a special prosecutor should be appointed because anyone involved in law enforcement cannot be trusted handle the matter fairly.

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