Bloomfield Police Racial Profile

Dear Editor:

I would like to shine a legal spotlight on several racist experiences I’ve experienced in Bloomfield Township.

On Friday April 22, I was at Johnny Tires shop on the corner of Franklin Street and Watsessing Avenue, conversing with an employee and a former classmate of mine named Mary who had just been hit by a truck driver who ran away from the scene. Mary called the police to report the accident; we haven’t seen each other in 14 years.

I was blocked in at the tire shop by a police truck that was parked behind me and a customer car that was being serviced, so I was unable to move. Therefore, I proceeded to hold an intense conversation with Mary about my uncomfortable experience in Bloomfield, including being a victim of a police car chase that caused me to become disabled, the poor handling of my son’s untimely death, and other negative police interactions in the city.

Afterward, I drove down the street and noticed a police officer following me. Once I turned on to Newark Avenue, the officer put on his silent sirens, and I pulled over. It was the same police officer who responded to Mary’s hit and run accident. I asked the officer why I was being pulled over, and the police officer showed me a hand held device that is supposedly a police radar. He claimed that it went off when I drove past. He informed me that my registration was suspended due to no car insurance, which is why he pulled me over.

Then he said he did not know it was me from the tire shop and felt bad for pulling me over since we were just conversing with each other at the tire shop. He asked me for my license, registration, and insurance card. I gave the officer all of the requested documents.

The officer came back to my car and told me that his car computer showed that my registration was suspended on March 5, due to no car insurance. I reassured the officer that, that information was inaccurate because I had just paid my car insurance a few days before.

The officer told me to call my insurance company while he was standing by my car. I called my insurance company and put my phone on speaker so that the officer could hear the call. I told the insurance agent that I had just been pulled over by a police officer due to a supposed car registration suspension and a lack of car insurance.

The insurance agent confirmed to the officer that my insurance was not suspended and that I was in good standing since 2009. The agent then asked the police officer the date my insurance was supposedly suspended. The agent asked the officer where he got that date from because he had inaccurate information. She then asked the officer for his badge number and town location.

However, even after the insurance agent confirmed that my insurance was not suspended, the officer still gave me two tickets for suspended/revoked insurance.

In preparation for my court date, I requested a letter from my insurance agent, stating that my insurance policy was never suspended. When I went to court Thursday, May 5, though, the prosecutor tried to make me pay the two tickets for failure to show insurance and registration.

I refused to pay the fines due to the false allegations and requested that the case go to trial. On Thursday, July 9, I went back to court again. The day of the trial, the prosecutor told my lawyer he would reduce the charge to no points on my license and a $100 fine.

I refused to pay the fine since my insurance company already confirmed with the officer that my insurance wasn’t suspended and that I was in good standing. Furthermore, I told the lawyer who was representing me that if I paid the $100, it would mean that I was agreeing to charges that I did not commit.

During the two times I appeared in court for this case, I noticed that there was a higher percentage of African Americans and Latinos in the courtroom than any other ethnic group.

I believe the officer overheard my conversation with the tire shop worker about my car accident incident, the poor handling of my son’s death, and the removal of my son’s memorial in the township of Bloomfield before deciding to abuse his power and pull me over.

I do not like driving in Bloomfield due to the ongoing negative experiences I have been subjected to due to police officer racial profiling. In fact, going back and forth to court in Bloomfield is a mental torment and painful reminder for me of the day I received the call about my son’s horrific death by a bus that brutally jumped the curb and ran over my son.

As aforementioned, I’ve been the victim of several abhorrent encounters with the Bloomfield police as well as the township, which is insensitive and allows injustice to reign.

The first incident in Bloomfield Township occurred on Wednesday, July 18, 2007, when a high speed police chase on Bloomfield Avenue left me disabled. The women’s car that was stolen was at the police station giving her statement, so there was no reason for the car chase because the owner of the car’s life was safe.

The Bloomfield police displayed reckless behavior to pursue a stolen car that left me disabled with nerve damage on my right side for the rest of my life. I thought a police officer’s responsibility is to serve and protect citizen’s rights/lives from becoming injured, not inflict injury to innocent people.

Afterward, when I went to the Bloomfield police station with my mother, I overheard the police supervisor telling the officer that he was not going to come to the window and help us. Instead, he said he was going to see how long we would sit in the waiting area. The supervisor then went on to laugh and mock me when I asked about obtaining the police report for the accident.

My second unfortunate encounter with Bloomfield occurred July 18, 2012, when my only child, Deshon Johnson, was murdered by Coach USA bus driver Wilson Romaine operating NJ Transit Bus #709 on Broad Street and Bay Avenue, which is both a county and town road. The Bloomfield police did a poor job at the scene of my son’s demise and treated my son’s life as if it had no value!!!!

The third incident occurred on July 18, 2014, on my son’s death anniversary, when someone from the township removed my son’s memorial not long after we left the ceremony.

I went to a gas station, and a male employee said he saw my son’s memorial at first, but when he came back a few hours later, the memorial was gone.

Another young woman from the Flower Nursery also said that she witnessed “a worker for the township clean up the memorial after everyone left.”

Yet, the township did not remove another memorial a few blocks away from my son’s that involved three white children who were killed in a car accident.

I strongly believe that there should be a thorough investigation on the township of Bloomfield by the District Attorney’s Civil Rights department.