NJ cop who brake-checked driver is punished, driver fighting tickets
CLIFTON — It has taken almost a year, but a driver who said he was "brake checked" by a police officer is still fighting the violations from the traffic stop that has led to disciplinary charges against the cop and a lawsuit against city.
During the traffic stop last March, which was captured on the driver's dashcam, Officer Juan Velez's car can be seen coming to an abrupt stop, causing the driver to stop quickly as well.
On the recording, Velez said he stopped short because he believed the driver was following too closely. The driver was issued summonses for tailgating, not having a front license plate and having tinted windows.
Since the incident, the officer has been disciplined by the department for exhibiting "poor demeanor" during the traffic stop, according to a copy of a letter the department sent the driver informing him of the status of their internal investigation.
The driver, who asked that he be identified in this article only as Omar because he fears for his safety, says that the traffic charges against his should be dropped because the police department acknowledged that the officer acted inappropriately.
A second letter about the legality of the traffic stop said that Velez was justified in stopping Omar at that time.
"However, the investigation did disclose sufficient evidence that the manner in which the motor vehicle stop was conducted involved a violation of departmental policy," the letter says.
The municipal court case for the violations took another step forward last week when another scheduled court hearing was adjourned because the defense team had not yet received internal affairs files they hoped to have entered into evidence in the case. While it is not known what is on these files, Omar said they could be helpful to his case.
He said it could also explain why the videos were not released on time. Omar said because of that, the case was delayed until April 5.
Omar said they were told they would receive the video by March 3, but that that date had come and gone without any progress.
"Internal affairs doesn't want to give it to us," he said. "The guy who was supposed to send it over only sent a letter."
Omar said it was "pretty shocking," that the case has gone the way that it has, and that between fighting the tickets and a lawsuit against the city he's "not really sure how that's going to go down."
While they have not seen the full report, Omar said even the letter is a step in the right direction for his side of the story.
"It definitely does help because it shows that internal affairs acknowledges that there was an incident formally," he said.
Omar added that not long after the traffic stop, Velez allegedly confronted him and called him a "coward." In a later YouTube video, Omar said he believed Velez confronted him in an effort to provoke him.
"I just repeated, 'I will see you in court,' at which point I offered to shake his hand, but he just walked away."
With more than a year to prepare, if and when the municipal court trial does start, Omar said he is ready. He said he has done additional calculations since the time of the incident, which show that he was safely following Velez and that he was not in danger of hitting the police cruiser from behind.
Having almost a year to think about that day and the events since, has not left a good impression of his local government.
"Within the past 10, 11, 12 months, I never realized how dishonest people can be within our own local government," he said.
Clifton police could not be reached for comment by New Jersey 101.5.
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