Previously suspended Newark police officer faces charges

By Noah Cohen | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on February 10, 2017

Wilberto Ruiz

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NEWARK -- A Newark police officer -- who was previously suspended from the department -- is accused of making false statements in an unrelated case that stemmed from traffic summonses he issued in August 2015, officials said Friday.

Wilberto Ruiz, of Newark, was charged with making false statements and false swearing, according to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray.

"The charges allege that while on duty during August, 2015, Police Officer Ruiz issued motor vehicle summonses to an individual knowing that the affirmations made in the summonses were not true," Murray said in a statement.

Ruiz was served with the charges Friday and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 24, according to the prosecutor's office. An agency spokeswoman did not have details on the alleged false statements.

Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose confirmed Ruiz was immediately suspended without pay for the allegations announced Friday.

"I hold all members of the Department of Public Safety to the highest standards," Ambrose added in a statement. "I will not tolerate any actions or activities by members of this department that denigrate the public's trust or tarnish the reputation of the NPD."

City and county investigators thoroughly investigate allegations of misconduct against officers, the public safety director said.

"We will quickly and aggressively investigate all allegations of wrongdoing and will continue working with the Essex County Prosecutor's Office to ensure the integrity of the agency and its members," Ambrose added.

The charges announced Friday marked the second time Ruiz gained public attention over claims of misconduct.

Ruiz was previously suspended without pay last February after allegations surfaced that he was involved in an on-duty encounter that reportedly left a 14-year-old boy with a dislocated shoulder, officials said. He later returned to duty before the latest suspension Friday. 

In the case last year, Newark police internal affairs investigators found Ruiz did not submit paperwork documenting the incident and his role in it until 24 hours after it occurred, officials said at the time.

Ruiz has not been charged for the allegations that the boy was injured, but the investigation was ongoing, law enforcement officials said. 

James Stewart Jr, president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police, said the union has not been provided with any details on the new allegations against the officer. A defense attorney for Ruiz could not be immediately reached to comment Friday afternoon.

The 33-year-old officer joined the department in March 2014, officials said. Ruiz, then a member of the now defunct Gang Enforcement Unit, was also featured in the PBS documentary "Policing the Police" on Frontline that explored civil rights abuses in the state's largest municipal police force.

Officials allowed the documentary crew insider access to the Newark police department, which included a ride-along with Ruiz and other members of the gang unit.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka previously told NJ Advance Media the show misrepresented sweeping police reforms under his administration, including hiring Ambrose to lead an overhaul of the public safety operations in the city. Ambrose has since disbanded the gang unit.

Officials asked anyone with information about Ruiz to contact the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Professional Standards and Corruption Bureau at 862-520-3700.

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