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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  The Column  >  A Trooper, An Assemblyman, and a Video

The Column

Police and Law Enforcement News
Thursday, December 20
, 2012
  10:52 a.m.


In the early part of last March, New Jersey State Trooper Randy Pangborn learned that an internal affairs complaint had been lodged against him. 

Normally, this is not a very big deal, but this was a rather serious charge stemming from a motor vehicle stop Trooper Pangborn had made about a week earlier.  And the accuser was a member of the New Jersey Legislature.

Backed by the full weight of his political office, the letter was prepared on official letterhead and sent directly to the colonel of the New Jersey State Police according to the Star Ledger.

In the letter, Assemblyman Nelson Albano accused Trooper Pangborn of specifically targeting him on his way to the Statehouse. It said the trooper requested backup and had other troopers box in his car making Albano feel, "humiliated, embarrassed and disrespected as a legislator."

"There was absolutely no reason to treat me like a criminal and detain two other troopers from public safety while trooper Pangborn conducted his charade," the letter read according to the Star Ledger.

But this wasn't the worst of it.  Assemblyman Albano accused Trooper Pangborn of using his position to retaliate against the assemblyman's legislative work.   "I believe this trooper was, and is, retaliating against any legislator because of the changes in health care and pension reform," he said.

Make no mistake: that is a criminal accusation, not just a demeanor complaint.  If true, it would take an hour sifting through a 2C book to compile the appropriate charges.  And one would probably begin with second degree offense of Official Misconduct.

In the end, it came down to the esteemed, elected assemblyman's version of the encounter vs. that of the rogue trooper.

Oh, but there was a video.

Pursuant to State Police policy, the entire incident was recorded from the dash camera of Pangborn's troop car.

And the version depicted on the video was nothing like the version described in the complaint.  In fact, it was as if Assemblyman Albano's letter was describing an entirely different encounter.

As it turned out, Trooper Pangborn never called for back up.

Mr. Albano's vehicle was never boxed in by other troopers.

Trooper Pangborn never did anything that would have, "humiliated, embarrassed [or] disrespected" Assemblyman Albano, and Trooper Panborn never treated Assemblyman Albano like a criminal.

In fact, the stop was completely uneventful.  The video showed Trooper Pangborn stopping the car, collecting the credentials and returning to his vehicle to complete the summons.

When Trooper Pangborn returned to the car, the driver identified himself as a New Jersey state assemblyman and asked for a break in light of his previous support for law enforcement.  Trooper Pangborn declined and issued the summons.

That was the extent of the encounter.  At no time did either gentleman raise his voice, and at no time did Trooper Pangborn treat Mr. Albano with anything less the complete courtesy.

The complaint has since been withdrawn.  The Star Ledger pointed out in a sharply worded editorial, "a complaint he withdrew exactly one day after The Star-Ledger’s Christopher Baxter questioned him about it."

There are complaints that are justified.  Police officers must be professional and - absent extenuating circumstances - treat citizens in a respectful manner.

There are complaints that are a matter of perception.  Sometimes an officer and a citizen can view the same encounter differently and a contrasting account given by a citizen doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is lying.

And then there are complaints that are invented. 

So, we're left with two questions.

First, where would this trooper be if not for the video?  An accusation made by a person of such high standing would have - at a minimum - caused serious damage to the trooper's career.

The second question is more complicated.

Law officers are held to a high standard.  We should be.  We are entrusted with an incredible amount of authority: the power to detain, the power to search persons and possessions, the power to seize property, and the power to use force.

We are regulated, checked, and balanced from every corner.  The state policy outlining the internal affairs process alone is 119 pages.

So, our second question is this: now what?  To what standard are New Jersey legislators held?  How many pages are in their internal affairs policy?  And what disciplinary action will be taken here?

Our guess would be none, zero, and none. 

Maybe they'll prove us wrong.  We'll see.

Congratulations to Trooper Pangborn for being cleared and nice job during the stop.  Very professional.


Share your Thoughts on This Column

While all opinions will be considered, we will not post any messages that are inflammatory, that bash any ethnic group, or that are just beyond reason.  Letters will be reviewed and posted each day. reserves the right to alter, shorten, or decline any submission. 



Your Comments

They should file charges against Albano for falsifying an official complaint.

As a Correctional Officer I've dealt with numerous of complaints sent to I.A, simply because I was doing my job. Sadly the complaints with no recording of the incident get reviewed and criticized the hardest, and at times investigated by the prosecutors office.

I feel (as Mr. Assemblyman states "humiliated, disrespected & embarrassed") as an officer when this happens.

Where is the trust? Aren't we Sworn in LE Officers?

I believe false complaints such as the ones made by Mr. Assemblyman's should be deeply investigated, reviewed, disciplined and rectified just like if it was a officer deceiving the law.

JUSTICE APPLIES TO EVERYONE!!   He should be at least suspended!! I know damn well if it was me making false statements and jeopardizing the career of a "official," I'd be done.

Congrats Trooper!

Four things which can save your life or ruin it: the badge, the gun, the car or the MVR.

Charges for a false complaint should be filed. The trooper should sue him for slander and possibly ruining his career to be promoted. We as law enforcement are held accountable for everything thing we say and do. False complaints should be prosecuted. The accusation even though false will stick with the trooper. Citizens legislator or not need to be taught a lesson just like the trooper would have received if not for the video

Using your position as personal gain while on a stop Mr. Assemblyman?  Then to file an IA in conjunction your political office to rid of your summons at the expense of a hard working troops career?  WOW!

Too funny... "I believe this trooper was, and is, retaliating against any legislator because of the changes in health care and pension reform," he said.

I guess he's smart enough to know they pissed us off...

Way to go my brother in blue!  That's one for the team!

The dash cam protects everyone involved.

I don't get how a legislator making a false allegation against a trooper has anything to do with giving another cop a break on a MV violation which we have discretion on.

For the guy wondering why everyone cant have a break, it's because everyone doesn't deserve a break. A break to a fellow officer is just a perk they get for running into gun fire when you are running out or when your infant is choking and you never took the time to learn CPR.  Jerk.

Politicians are generally a bunch of a$$holes.  They also normally get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to an allegation. 

I really hope that the NJSP will file criminal complaints against the politician for filing a false police report.

He should be charged for falsifying and removed as an assemblyman.

The trooper should sue him for slander.

If NJ Police were not so easy about giving every single badge in the state a free pass for speeding, things like this would not occur, because no one would expect a "break". If another trooper, sheriff, or CO can get a "break"...than why not this guy, you or me?

I am glad that trooper Pangborn was cleared of the charges against him. At the same time shouldn't there be a law that would hold responsible people who wrongfully accuse other?   I think this is a baloney.

Congrats to the NJ trooper on being cleared.  Finally a bad story that turned out well. Hopefully the assemblyman will be dealt with just as the trooper would have been if he were in the wrong.

This situation is a common occurrence on the job as a police officer. As stated above, I also believe all police vehicles should have cameras installed. I work for a department that does not have these assets and one day, we may be regretting that.

Most likely nothing will happen to the legislator who had made the complaint.  But that doesn't mean it is right. 

I agree that as a law enforcer one must be held to a higher standard and so should the legislators.  Also the complaint should be treated the same way as falsifying a police report would be.  Criminal charges should be filed against the original complainant since by the video tap the legislator lied about the stop.

But we all know that in reality nothing will happen to the legislator!

This type of incident is as old as time itself.  Those who hold themselves above the law by way  of position, and expect special treatment is  nothing new.

It will continue as it always has, and the police officers will have to deal with it in a professional manner as they always have.

One very important fact about New Jersey is that we do not cave in to politics as many other States do. If this  incident would have  occurred in a few States that I will not mention the police officer may have  been fired for doing his job.

Good work N.J. in this respect.

If I was the trooper, I'd file a complaint for filing a false police report.

Charges for a false complaint should be filed. The trooper should sue him. We as law enforcement are held accountable for everything thing we say and do. False complaints should be prosecuted. The accusation even though false will stick with the trooper. Citizens legislator or not need to be taught a lesson just like the trooper would have received if not for the video

This legislator should be charged with making a false complaint.

Stories like this make me so glad I have video in my car.  This troop would have been dead meat without the dash cam.





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