No special treatment seen in 1st cop stop
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 02/6/07
BY ERIK LARSEN
AND NICK CLUNN
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The Manasquan patrolman who pulled over Wall police Capt. Bernard Sullivan, but let him go 15 minutes before he was pulled over again and arrested for driving while intoxicated, did nothing wrong, according to his patrol supervisor.
"Based on the officer's experience and training, it was his best judgment at the time that (Sullivan) was OK to drive," Mana-squan police Capt. Elliott A. Correia, who is the department's patrol commander, said Monday.
Manasquan considers the matter closed on its end, Correia said.
At 12:20 a.m. Jan. 27, Sullivan was stopped on Route 71 near Crescent Place in Sea Girt for speeding, according to Mana-squan police, who released a video of the motor-vehicle stop Friday. No information has been released on how fast Sullivan was traveling.
Fifteen minutes after the initial stop, in neighboring Wall, Sullivan was again pulled over — this time by a subordinate officer in his own department.
Patrolman Todd Verrecchia said he saw a vehicle run a red light at the intersection of 16th Avenue and Route 35 and proceed across four lanes of Route 35 onto Belmar Boulevard, nearly causing a collision.
The results of Sullivan's two Breathalyzer tests taken at Wall police headquarters resulted in blood-alcohol level readings of 0.19 and 0.20, Wall police Capt. David Morris, now acting police chief, has said. The legal threshold in New Jersey is 0.08. Sullivan was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, disregard of marked lanes and failure to observe traffic, according to a police report.
Correia said when Sullivan was pulled over in Sea Girt by Patrolman Thomas Morton, the officer had no reason to believe that Sullivan was impaired or could not safely operate his vehicle.
Correia explained that even if his officer detected alcohol on Sullivan's breath — and he does not suggest that happened — it wouldn't necessarily mean he was intoxicated.
Correia also observed that the stop his officer made "was strictly for speeding" and that Morton's interaction with Sullivan was extremely brief — lasting about 15 seconds.
"Officer Morton followed all policies and procedures," Correia said. "His discretion would be that he would let the driver go without a summons."
If Morton had thought Sullivan was intoxicated, "I'm sure that he would not have allowed him to drive. Officer Morton has received advanced training."
Manasquan Mayor Richard Dunne said he questioned whether Sullivan was let go because he was a police officer.
"My concern was that we behave consistently and do not show favoritism," Dunne said.
But Dunne said he is satisfied that isn't the case here. A dispatch log from Morton's shift — 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Jan. 26 into Jan. 27 — show that Morton had stopped three motorists during that time period — including Sullivan — none of whom he ticketed.
Correia confirmed the log. Nevertheless, he said he did not know whether Sullivan had flashed his badge or otherwise identified himself as a fellow officer to Morton. Morton called out sick Monday, Correia said, and was not available for comment.
Peter Aseltine, a spokesman with the state Attorney General's Office, said the Monmouth County prosecutor is the appropriate authority in this matter.
"Our office will be reviewing the entire matter," Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin said Monday.
"Certainly, DWI is a real concern to us, and if there's an allegation that a law enforcement officer has broken the law, that's a serious matter to us," Aseltine said. He indicated it's possible that the state could become involved at some point.
Wall Township Administrator Joseph L. Verruni was not available Monday to answer questions about the investigation or Sullivan's current employment status.
Sullivan had been set to have become police chief in Wall last Thursday, although the Township Committee — in an emergency meeting Jan. 30 — rescinded the appointment in light of the charges.
In 2005, Sullivan, who also has served on the Wall Planning Board, had taken on a new responsibility in the department as the supervisor of two squads formed that year to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents through enforcement and educational programs.
A growing number of accidents and moving violations in the township had compelled police to create the squads.
Sullivan, during the late 1990s, also served as the face and voice of the department as its spokesman.
The captain was involved in three motor vehicle accidents from 1984 to 1989, but did not have any violations on his driving record, according to the state Motor Vehicle Commission on Monday.
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