NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The police officer who shot and killed an unarmed city resident last September will leave the police force in disgrace, after an internal affairs investigation found he violated police procedures.
Rather than face punishment for the three departmental violations, Brad Berdel has put in for a disability pension with the state and submitted his resignation. Berdel is a resident of Monroe Township and has financially supported Mayor James Cahill’s political campaigns, as we reported in April.
“The three violations in question pertain to Officer Berdel’s failure to carry and maintain the [pepper] spray issued as required on-duty equipment,” said a press release from the city.
Newly-promoted police captain JT Miller told the Home News Tribune, “In lieu of the recommended discipline, Police Director Anthony A. Caputo has accepted a letter of resignation submitted by Berdel regardless of the state’s decision to approve or reject his disability pension.”
Why Berdel is applying for a disability pension is unclear, especially since he was not harmed by all accounts in the shooting incident that ended his career.
Daniel Mazan, the other officer involved in the shooting, will return to the force in the patrol division, and was found to be in compliance with local police procedures.
Both men had been on paid administrative leave for the last eleven months. When we asked city spokesman Russell Marchetta weeks ago if it was true Berdel was leaving the force, he said could not comment until the investigation was completed.
Berdel joined the force in August 2005 and was investigated by Internal Affairs seven times starting in 2006, according to an analysis of public records by Patch.com’s Joe Malinconico. He made a salary of $89,185 in 2011, according to MyCentralJersey.com’s DataUniverse.
As we reported earlier this April, Berdel made a $250 donation to the campaign committee for New Brunswick’s longtime mayor James Cahill in April 2010.
Mazan played football at Rutgers University before joining the force in March 2009. He was investigated twice in 2010, and made $64,924 in 2011.
According to Malinconico’s analysis, which was released a few weeks after the shooting, four of the nine investigations into the two officers had pending or unclear outcomes, including a complaint lodged against Berdel by a fellow officer in 2006.
Two days after the article was published, Sgt. Richard Rowe, the former head of internal affairs was charged with mishandling 81 investigations into his fellow officers.
Rowe gave Mayor Cahill’s campaign fund $500 on April 21, 2010, just two days after Berdel made his donation. Rowe became the department’s sacrificial lamb, as Cahill disowned him and he was indicted in January.
In the wake of the Rowe scandal, the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) implemented changes to the internal affairs process, including increased transparency.
In November 2011, the NBPD began publishing a document, the Internal Affairs (IA) Monthly Review on their new website, but stopped after April’s document was published.
Over the six months that reports were released, 55 cases resulted in officers being exonorated. Two cases resulted in the complaints against officers being sustained, while another eleven were not sustained, four were listed as “Admin. Closed,” and two were determined to be unfounded.
The first report indicated there were 48 cases pending. The number of pending cases peaked at 55 in the February 2012 report and the April 2012 report indicated there were 26 cases pending, after many of the complaints were resolved.
A NewBrunswickToday.com analysis of the status of these investigations reveal that the IA unit averaged 7 dispositions per month until a whopping 39 investigations were brought to a conclusion in April.
For unknown reasons, the department ceased releasing the reports on their website after April’s report.
The six reports give very few details on the 46 separate incidents that resulted in 66 additional IA complaints, including another officer-involved shooting on January 31 that paralyzed a 19-year-old man.
Two of the claims were for “excessive force” in December 2011, and one each in February and March of 2012. But sixteen of the investigations, including the January shooting, were categorized under the “Other Criminal Violation” category.
Barry Deloatch was 46 years old when he was shot by Berdel shortly after midnight on September 22. Deloatch was dead before medical personnel arrived at the scene. He was never charged with a crime and police found no weapons or illegal substances on him.
According to the official story, Deloatch ran from the officers before using a wooden stick as a weapon against Mazan, while they were stuck under a fence together in the backyard of 105 Throop Avenue. Then, from a distance, Berdel shot and killed Deloatch.
“Suspect was attempting to hit us with a… a wooden stick,” a voice is heard saying on the police radio shortly after the “shots fired” announcement.
Nicholas Sewitch, the third-ranking official in the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office abruptly left his job on July 1, and is rumored to be under investigation himself.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.