Comprehensive Investigation into Clark Township's Government and Police Department Reveals Serious Misconduct, Leading to Calls for Major Reforms and Terminations
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin has released a revealing report on misconduct within Clark Township's government and police department, recommending the termination of two high-ranking police officials and referring the case to several agencies for further action.
CLARK TOWNSHIP, NJ - Attorney General Platkin Monday, November 20, 2023, brought to light a 43-page report from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), detailing the outcomes of a thorough investigation into Clark Township's municipal government and the Clark Police Department (CPD).
The investigation, which began in July 2020, has culminated in a recommendation for the dismissal of two senior police department officials, including Chief Pedro Matos, and has prompted referrals for additional examination to four entities, including the Division on Civil Rights.
Emphasizing the fundamental expectations of integrity and fairness from government and law enforcement officials, Attorney General Platkin criticized the leadership of the Clark Police Department and the township for failing to fulfill their civic responsibilities.
“There is a social contract that imposes an expectation that officials in positions of governmental and law enforcement leadership will do the right thing, act not in self-interest but in service to the greater good, and treat all people with respect and dignity as equals,” said Attorney General Platkin. “These are not naïve ideals or lofty ambitions, but rather the bare minimum expectations communities should have in their leaders. The leaders in the Clark Police Department, and the Township more generally, failed to keep up their end of that bargain.”
The report aims to provide maximum transparency within legal constraints and to rebuild public trust through the disclosure of the state's findings.
“The allegations giving rise to these investigations rocked the public’s trust in government,” says the report. “Mindful of the legal limitations to disclosing certain information, this report attempts to restore community trust in some small measure through publicly disclosing the State’s findings.”
The investigation, sparked by allegations of misconduct including racist, sexist, and antisemitic slurs in internal discussions and practices, involved extensive interviews, record reviews, and audits of CPD's procedures.
While criminal charges are not pursued at this time, pending new evidence, the report sheds light on the investigative process and legal analysis that led to this decision.
Chief Matos is notably implicated for not forwarding allegations of wrongdoing as mandated by internal affairs procedures, along with making derogatory comments and displaying a lack of truthfulness.
Sgt. Joseph Teston, in charge of the internal affairs unit, is similarly criticized for derogatory remarks and inadequate conduct of internal investigations. Teston's arrest in April 2022 for an incident in New York further underscores the report's findings and basis for his termination.
The Attorney General's recommendations are advisory, with the final decision resting with a township official. Due to potential conflicts of interest, it's suggested that an independent individual without such conflicts make the final disciplinary determinations.
The report also refers to disparities in police practices to the Division on Civil Rights, the Township Attorney's conduct to the Office of Attorney Ethics, and settlement agreement concerns to the State Comptroller and Division of Pension and Benefits.
While no conclusive evidence of discriminatory policing was found, the report calls for interventions and further study in some areas, continuing the Attorney General-directed interventions at CPD and UCPO to improve police culture, diversity, and community relations.