By Charlotte Huffman

ROBBINSVILLE TOWNSHIP, NJ (CBS) — Police dash cam video obtained by the CBS3 I-Team shows what unfolded when an officer with the Robbinsville Township Police Department stopped a Jersey City police officer.

According to police reports, Vincent Corso was pulled over when a RTPD officer said he witnessed Corso speeding “at over 70 miles per hour” in a 55 mile per hour zone with “the driver’s side headlight out” and “crossing over the center white dotted line.”

The traffic stop happened on the night of January 30, 2014 on Route 130 South in Mercer County.

Vincent Corso is a sergeant with Jersey City Police Department.

In the dash cam video, Corso can be heard informing the RTPD officer that he is a sergeant from Jersey City’s force.

The RTPD officer returns to his patrol vehicle and asks dispatch to verify Corso’s employment with JCPD.

Against the RTPD officer’s orders, Corso exits his vehicle several times.

“What are we doing here? … Are we okay here?” Corso asked.

Several officers respond to the scene to assist. One officer can be heard describing Corso as “smashed.”

“If you get in that car right now, I’ll lock you up for DWI. You are so ****** up right now you can’t even speak right,” an RTPD officer told Corso.

 

According to RTPD investigation reports obtained by the I-Team, Corso was “found to be highly intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle.”

 

“I was able to detect an overwhelming odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from within the vehicle,” an RTPD officer wrote in his report. On scene, RTPD officers decided Corso was too drunk to be carrying a weapon.

While attempting to take his gun, Corso “resisted police officer control” and was put into a “compliance hold” on the hood of a RTPD patrol vehicle.

A person “found to be highly intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle” would likely be given a sobriety test, maybe arrested and charged with a DWI.

A person who resists police can be charged with disorderly conduct.

Both charges carry jail time.

But Corso was not given a sobriety test. He was not arrested nor charged.

RTPD Sergeant:   “Sir, this is what we are doing, okay? We don’t have much [sic] options but this is what we are doing. You are not going to be placed under arrest. You could be and you know the repercussions of that, okay.  What we are doing is we are going to tow your car to the police department parking lot. We are going to bring you to the police department. You are not under arrest, like I said. From there we are going to contact the supervisor in your department to have an officer come to our department to give you a ride.”

CORSO:   “Thank you. “

RTPD Sergeant:   “What transpired is obviously generating an investigation report for us and our lieutenants, chain of command are going to obviously be aware of this whole situation. But this is the best possible outcome at this point.”

CORSO:   “Thank you. That’s good.”

RTPD Sergeant:   “I will tell you this – if your department does not cooperate by sending an officer to help you out …” (CORSO:   “They’ll send someone.”) … “it’s going to be handled a bit differently, okay? … I want you to understand, which I’m sure you are aware but I don’t know your impairment, but I want you to understand we are going beyond the norm here. We are extending a professional courtesy here.”

CORSO:   “I’m a sergeant too so I appreciate it.”

RTPD officers towed Corso’s car for him and transported Corso to their department where he was picked up by Jersey City officers.

The incident status was “cleared” and the case was “closed.”

CBS showed the dash cam video to Richard Rivera, a former police officer and expert on police behavior.

“The public is probably outraged watching this,” he said.

“These courtesies are often extended when they don’t have to be. Officer Corso should have been arrested. The (Robbinsville) officers should have done their job and they backed down from that … If it was someone else they would have been arrested already,” said Rivera.

Robbinsville’s mayor and Director of Public Safety, Dave Fried has a different opinion.

“I do think our officers handled it in a professional manner,” he told investigative reporter, Charlotte Huffman.

HUFFMAN:  “What do you say to some people who may watch this and with everything going on in our nation right now might say this reinforces their belief that police can do anything and get away with it?”

FRIED:  “I completely disagree.”

HUFFMAN:  “A lot of people would argue that’s a double standard.”

FRIED: “You’re assuming they gave him a break.”

HUFFMAN:  “Well, didn’t they?”

FRIED: “I don’t look at it that way. They turned him over to his department … When we turn someone over to another department we expect they’re going to follow through.”

Mayor Fried went on to defend the actions of his officers by saying RTPD complied with a request from JCPD.

“You have to understand from the context (RTPD officers) didn’t just let (Corso) go home. He was picked up by his police department who had asked for him back. When another department asks for their officer back … we don’t know what’s really going on so we turn him over to that department.”

The I-Team obtained further records and found no evidence to support the mayor’s claim that JCPD initiated the “professional courtesy” by asking for Corso to be returned to them.

Records indicate it was the Robbinsville officers who extended the offer to JCPD – not vice versa.

  • The following quotes are from RTPD officers and are taken from RTPD reports:
  • An RTPD Sergeant “notified Jersey City Police in reference to to [sic] the situation and requested someone to come and pick him up.”
  • “I would attempt to contact a supervisor of the Jersey City Police Department to advise him of the situation (in hopes that a fellow officer would be detailed to respond to RTPD Headquarters to take custody of Mr. Corso’s handgun, uniforms and to ensure that Mr. Corso was taken home safely without further incident). I then returned to RTPD Patrol Car #15 and advised Mr. Corso of the same intended course of action should both he and his department cooperate.”
  • JCPD officers “agreed with our request to take custody of Mr. Corso”
  • “We were attempting to extend a ‘professional courtesy’”

 

Legal experts tell the I-Team “professional courtesies” are against the law.

Experts say it is up to the officer who finds enough probable cause to stop a driver to follow through and if necessary, make an arrest in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office declined to answer the I-Team’s questions but spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio sent the following statement:

“Our position was, and is, that the incident did not warrant a criminal investigation of the conduct of the Robbinsville officers.”

Mayor Fried says it won’t happen again. He confirms “professional courtesies” will no longer be extended in Robbinsville.

“Were we perfect – absolutely not. Will we get better – of course we will. But will we hide from things we’ve done right and wrong – absolutely not,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Jersey City declined the I-Team’s requests to interview Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Public Safety Director, James Shea.

Despite numerous attempts to contact Corso, the I-Team has not yet heard back.

Have a story you want the CBS3 I-Team to investigate? Send an email to iteam@cbsphilly.com

Follow CBS3 Investigative Reporter Charlotte Huffman on Twitter: @HuffmanCBS3