UPDATE: Passaic Police Chief Luis Guzman said Friday that two illegally parked private ambulances were towed early Thursday following warnings issued three days earlier -- and again that morning.
Guzman also said that the owner’s 64-year-old mother was taken into custody for refusing several times to stop blocking the vehicles from being removed.
At the same time, Mayor Hector Carlos Lora said the chief is conducting an internal affairs investigation arising from a video clip posted on Daily Voice ( above ) in which an officer threatens to arrest the director of Hotzolah EMS Incorporated, Dovid B. Kaplan, if he posts it on Facebook.
Lora said he made the request “in the interest of full transparency and to ensure that proper protocols and procedures were followed.”
Authorities issued the abandonment warnings after receiving several complaints about the long-term parking of the Hotzolah EMS Incorporated vehicles on the street in a residential neighborhood on Reid Avenue off Van Houten Avenue, the chief said.
Guzman cited the ordinance under which the vehicles were towed:
N.J.S. 39:4-56.5, Abandonment of Motor Vehicles, provides, in part, that “It shall be unlawful for any person to abandon a motor vehicle on or along any highway, other than a limited access highway, or other public property or on any private property without the consent of the owner or other person in charge of the private property. A vehicle which has remained on or along any highway or other public property or on private property without such consent for a period of more than 48 hours or for any period without current license plates shall be presumed to be an abandoned motor vehicle.”
Early Thursday, Kaplan was “again given the opportunity to move the vehicles and refused to do so before they were towed,” the chief said.
“While the towing company was preparing to remove the vehicles, Dori Kaplan, 64, of Passaic, stood in between the vehicles in an attempt to prevent them from being towed,” Guzman said.
“Officers on scene gave her several lawful orders to move out of the way, which she refused,” the chief said, so she was arrested and charged with obstruction and released on the disorderly persons offense pending a Municipal Court hearing.
The chief cited the ordinance that produced the arrest:
2C:29-1 provides, in part, that “A person commits an offense if he purposely obstructs, impairs, or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function by means of flight, intimidation, force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle, or by means of any independently unlawful act.”
Guzman left it to Lora to address the alleged threat from the officer, given that an internal affairs investigation was being conducted.
Gary Schaer, the first Orthodox Jewish member of the New Jersey General Assembly and a 25-year Passaic councilman supported the investigation.
"Privately owned non-emergency commercial vehicles were removed from our city streets after numerous citizen complaints and an official warning issued on September 30th to the vehicles' owner," Schaer said. "The non-emergency commercial vehicles were illegally parked and were towed, as would be the case for any vehicle deemed abandoned on our streets.
"Regrettably an arrest was also made as a private citizen attempted to prevent the towing of the illegally parked commercial vehicles, after what I understand were multiple lawful commands," he added.
ORIGINAL STORY (9:18 p.m. Oct. 3): Cellphone video shows a Passaic police officer threatening a West New York rabbi with arrest if he posts a video of him taking the rabbi’s mother into custody.
“Passaic Police Officer Nieves, who arrested my mother, illegally threatens to arrest me if I share the video of his disgusting behavior on Facebook,” wrote Dovid B. Kaplan, the director of Hatzolah EMS of North Jersey, in a Facebook posting of the video.
"If I see this on Facebook and all that...I'm gonna charge you,” the officer is heard on the video ( above ). “You're not allowed to record my image."
Kaplan, who founded the local branch of the international volunteer Orthodox ambulance corps, said his mother was charged with obstruction when she confronted police as two legally-parked Hatzolah rigs were being towed Thursday from Reid Avenue.
Passaic Mayor Hector Carlos Lora warned everyone not to jump to conclusions.
“Everyone has the right to witness interactions,” Lora said, “but in no way should you obstruct the police in carrying out their duties.
“Anything can happen in a split second if an officer’s vision is obstructed,” the mayor said. “I can’t say this situation was a dangerous one, but there have been incidents where a distraction has resulted in injury or the death of a police officer.”
Lora said he was planning to speak with Police Chief Luis Guzman “to be sure that we have all of the information.”
“Social media often does not always tell the whole story,” he said. “My expectation is that our officers conducted themselves accordingly with the oath that they have taken to serve the city to the best of their ability.
Kaplan has clashed with city police over parking in the past.
He claims he’s been harassed because of conflicts with another rabbi.
Kaplan said the street outside his parents’ home where he parks the ambulances around the corner from Hatzolah headquarters is a quiet dead end that “never receives street cleaning and has never had alternate side parking.”
City DPW workers placed alternate-day parking signs last month, he said.
Those signs prohibit parking for a two-hour period on Wednesdays, he said.
The incident occurred on Thursday.
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