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Tedesco Suspends Bergen Public Safety Director Over Traffic Stop

Ralph Rivera Jr.
Ralph Rivera Jr. Photo Credit: COURTESY:

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco on Thursday suspended Bergen County Public Safety Director Ralph Rivera Jr. in connection with a county police officer's complaint that he interfered with a traffic stop and arrest of a suspected drunk driver in Hackensack.

"I have asked Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal, the county’s top law enforcement official, to fully investigate this matter," Tedesco said. "Any additional action on behalf of the county will be determined following completion of the Prosecutor’s investigation."

Rivera, a retired New Jersey State Police officer who took the Bergen County job last year, is suspended with pay, as required under state law, the county executive noted.

Rivera showed up in an unmarked, county-owned vehicle at the University Plaza stop on March 19, told the officer who he is and called the driver "a friend of his," reports .

Rivera “interrupted and distracted me” several times, Bergen County Bureau of Police Services Officer Andrew Kara wrote, the report says .

Kara, a U.S. Marine veteran who joined the force three years ago, took Francisco A. Almonte of Hackensack into custody after he failed a field sobriety test, it says, adding that the driver later recorded a blood-alcohol level of 0.03 percent.

The Record newspaper obtained the report and dashcam video through an Open Public Records Act request.

Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, who operates the Bureau of Police Services said Thursday afternoon: "Our office had been informed that this matter is now under investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. Therefore we have no comment on the matter since there is an active investigation."

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