Cop suspended for Web site post
By PETE DALY
TRENTON -- A cop who posted the location and working condition of some of the new police surveillance cameras in the city on his Web site has been suspended without pay, Trenton police said.
Officer William Osterman, whose postings on Trentonfacts.com have often been critical of city leaders, is also facing five departmental charges for describing some of the camera housings as empty and showing their locations in pictures, police said.
Osterman was suspended by police director Joe Santiago yesterday for his postings on April 24, the same day the city unveiled the 35-camera network that will monitor some crime-plagued streets, said police spokesman Detective Sgt. Pedro Medina.
The 13-year veteran was forced to turn over his gun, badge, and billy club and faces a hearing before the departmentís appointment authority, Medina said.
Ostermanís Web site entry on April 24 was titled, "Lights! Camera! Inaction?," and accuses Mayor Doug Palmer and Santiago of timing the announcement of the surveillance cameras to boost Palmerís campaign before the May 9 mayoral election.
The officer also disclosed that cameras had not yet been installed at four locations within blocks of the PJ Hill Elementary School where a Trenton public school teacher was shot in the leg as she drove by the school March 30.
Osterman then posts pictures of all four empty camera housings and the intersections where they are located, even though Trenton police purposely did not tell the media or the public Monday which intersections would be fitted with cameras.
"Had these four cameras been up and running they might very well have captured identifiable images of suspect(s), and possible vehicles involved, if any, and given investigators important information within minutes of the crime," Osterman wrote on Trentonfacts.com.
Below that was a picture of another empty camera housing on a traffic light on Greenwood Avenue that is close to the spot where a man was grazed in the head with a bullet April 18.
"Too bad the election wasnít earlier in the year," Osterman wrote, "then maybe some of these cameras could have proven useful."
Neither Osterman nor Palmer could not be reached for comment last night.
Medina said the charges against the officer stem from violations of the departmentís rules and regulations.
They are: violation of confidential information for describing police actions; violation of duty; aiding or abetting against police regulations for releasing information that may "defeat the ends of justice"; failing to treat the business of the police division as confidential; and communicating information that "discredited" the Trenton Police Department.
"The charges speak for themselves. That type of action by any police officer serves no legitimate purpose," Medina said on behalf of Santiago. "In essence, what you are doing is placing every police officer in danger and even our citizens. We must keep in mind that before any personal feelings, your call to duty, which is to serve and protect, comes first."
While many of the camera housings on streetlights or traffic poles are clearly visible, Medina said publicizing their locations and whether or not they are working jeopardizes police work.
"Iím sure people driving down the street can see by looking for the cameras," he said. "But as police officers, we want to keep the advantage and we did not release their locations to the public."
"We want to keep criminals off balance and we want to keep criminals looking over their shoulders."
Osterman said on his Web site he supports the cameras for purposes of crime reduction and officer safety, but finds their implementation two weeks before the election "extremely suspect."