Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 4
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
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Sergeant Riley Reinstated as Superior Court Judge Dismisses All Charges

Dilshanie Perera

Borough Police Sergeant Kenneth Riley, who was suspended with pay in February 2008 and then suspended without pay after indictment by a Mercer County Grand Jury in September 2008, has recently been reinstated into the police force.

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg dismissed all of Mr. Riley’s charges last Thursday, and ordered that he be reinstated and reimbursed for all salary and benefits he would have received had he not been suspended, as well as legal fees. The total is estimated between $300,000 and $400,000, according to Attorney Jeff Garrigan, who represented Mr. Riley in the case.

All counts of indictment stemmed from the accusation of wrongfully accessing a police department video database of motor vehicle stops and allegedly showing a video to other members of the department. Mr. Riley and two other officers were accused in the incident.

Mr. Riley had incurred nine departmental charges when the case began, and was indicted on six by the grand jury in 2008. In November 2009, a judge dismissed the indictments, but the Borough continued to pursue the case internally.

“We decided at the Council level that [the case] would proceed,” acknowledged Council President Kevin Wilkes. The case was heard by Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi. “The Administrator decided that Sergeant Riley should be terminated.”

Mr. Riley appealed the termination, and Judge Feinberg dismissed the charges, which included improperly accessing a computer database, unfairly criticizing another sergeant, falsifying a police report, and improperly showing subordinates video footage, according to Mr. Garrigan, who added that there was not enough evidence to sustain the charges.

“I didn’t see any reason why [Mr. Riley] wasn’t reinstated when the indictment got dismissed,” Mr. Garrigan said, referring to the November 2009 decision.

Mr. Wilkes noted that Mr. Riley’s return to the police force and the payment of monies owed to him will not affect Borough taxpayers since “every year he has been off the force and the case was ongoing, we have been budgeting his salary and banking it … we decided it would be smarter to have a windfall for the Borough taxpayers instead of a penalty.”

“The force had made a lot of changes in the three years he’s been gone,” Mr. Wilkes said, noting that eight new officers have been hired in that time. He admitted that under the normal organizational structure, with the addition of Mr. Riley, the department now has one extra sergeant, totalling seven instead of six. The Borough will discuss whether to either reconfigure the organizational structure or to demote the last promoted sergeant, which would likely also result in a pay reduction for that officer. Mr. Wilkes called the potential demotion a “sad consequence” of the case.

“We knew the case was going to court,” Mr. Wilkes said. “The Council doesn’t stay involved in the day to day [proceedings of the court].” He noted that the Police Chief and Attorney Art Thibault were more involved in the details of the case for the Borough.

As for the duration of the case and the Borough’s decision to pursue it, Mr. Garrigan said, “I’m just shocked that nobody took a look at the merit of this besides the police officers.”

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