A 28-year-old township police officer has been suspended without pay from his $60,000 a year position after being charged with second-degree official misconduct.
Jeremy Felder of Old Bridge was arrested Tuesday on official misconduct charges in connection with an illegal search and then falsifying paperwork to cover it up, said Joseph Coronato, Ocean County Prosecutor.
Felder, who was hired from the Jackson Police Department in August 2011, was involved in the search of a motor vehicle in August 2013, which resulted in the seizure of controlled dangerous substances, Coronato said.
“Evidence developed during the investigation shows that Felder allegedly participated in an illegal search of the vehicle and subsequently falsified documents and his police report to conceal his wrongdoing,” said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
Della Fave said no specifics about the traffic stop where listed on the complaint. Calls to the Lakewood Police Department on the incident where referred back to the prosecutor’s office.
The charges against the vehicle’s occupants have been dismissed.
During his tenure as a police officer in Jackson, Felder was named in a lawsuit stemming from a Jan. 27, 2010, incident in the Wawa parking lot at South Hope Chapel Road and East Veterans Highway.
In his suit, Ball said he pulled into the gas station’s parking entrance, then attempted to move parking cones so he could drive to a nearby gas pump. Ball said Felder, who was on duty, told him to drive around to Wawa’s other entrance. Ball argued, saying doing so would cause his car to run out of gas, according to court documents.
At some point, the two started arguing, and Ball said Felder punched him.
In a police report included in court documents, Felder described Ball’s behavior as unusual and said Ball was slurring his speech and seemed excited and rambling. Ball also had a baseball bat in the front seat of his car, according to police. After refusing to move the vehicle, Ball allegedly yelled an expletive at the officer. Felder reported Ball made a rapid movement toward the front driver's compartment of the vehicle, leaning toward the baseball bat.
In April 2013, Jackson agreed to pay the man $95,000 to settle the case. No charges were ever filed against Felder.
Lakewood Police Chief Robert Lawson said the department’s internal affairs division is working with the prosecutor’s office on the case.
Committeeman Meir Lichtenstein said the governing body was notified of the situation a couple of days ago.
“We have a great police department and great officers,” Lichtenstein said. “Our professional standards division worked on this case. It shows that they can police their own. It’s disappointing, but you have to remember that he is innocent until proven guilty.”
Pastor Glenn Wilson, a community leader, said the incident cast a negative light on the police department.
“Off the bat, most people don’t trust the police and when things like this happen it just drives that idea,” Wilson said. “I really believe that most of our cops are good police officers. I don’t believe this should put a black eye on the whole department.”
Calls to Stuart Alterman, Felder’s attorney, were not returned.
Local Police Benevolent Association No. 71 President Gary Przewoznik said the union is there to support its members.
“As a local we stand behind and fully support all of our officers,” Przewoznik said. “Unlike civilians, police officers are held to a higher standard and for that reason, are typically presumed guilty until a trial allows the facts to be presented and innocence can be proven. Our union is here to ensure that until the facts are presented and a resolution/verdict is reached, our officers have the support necessary to get them though this difficult time.”
Felder’s bail was set at $15,000 with no 10 percent option by state Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels Jr. Della Fave said Felder immediately posted bail and so was never processed at the Ocean County Jail.
Della Fave did not have a photo of Felder. Detective Sgt. Greg Staffordsmith, spokesman for the Lakewood police, referred all questions to the prosecutor’s office and said he could not release a photo, per the state Attorney General’s Office guidelines.