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North Jersey police chief steps down amid racial profiling controversy

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WYCKOFF, N.J. — A police chief in a predominantly white town allegedly wrote an e-mail to his officers directing them to use racial profiling.

The e-mail was purportedly written by Chief Benjamin C. Fox in December of 2014 but was leaked to the ACLU of New Jersey last week. The ACLU forwarded the e-mail to the State Attorney General’s Office and they are investigating, along with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.

“On its face, the email appears to be a clear violation of the Attorney General’s policy strictly prohibiting racial profiling by police officers,” reads a joint statement from both offices.

The e-mail allegedly from Chief Fox, which he has not denied writing, states: “Profiling, racial or otherwise, has it’s place in law enforcement when used correctly and applied fairly.”

The e-mail was sent in the months following Eric Garner’s chokehold death at the hands of a New York City Police officer.

“Don’t ask the police to ignore what we know,” the e-mail says, “Black gang members from Teaneck commit burglaries in Wyckoff. That’s why we check out suspicious black people in white neighborhoods. White kids buy heroin in black NYC neighborhoods. That’s why the NYPD stops those white kids.”

“That is racial profiling,” said Udi Ofer, ACLU-NJ Executive Dircector, “Lets say, for the sake of argument, there are black gang members that walk the streets of Wyckoff. That does not give the police permission to stop every black person who is walking the streets of Wyckoff.”

The ACLU wants Fox fired and they are demanding an audit of stops, frisks, searches, summonses and arrests in Wyckoff to find out if racially influenced policing has occurred.

“As an educator, as a former law enforcement officer and as an activist, I was appalled by it,” said Anthony Cureton, President of the Bergen County NAACP, “Over the past couple years, profiling has been of major concern, specifically in the African American community. As well as other communities, such as in the Muslim community.”

Wyckoff town officials stayed quiet today but the Wyckoff Police Department did confirm that Chief Fox is on administrative leave pending the investigation. Chief Fox did not respond to requests for comment.

The ACLU says they want the Attorney General’s office to implement a policy statewide that would mandate the release of police data detailing stops, frisks, summonses and arrests.