Updates on Police Business from Clifton Detective Division


Detective Lieutenant Robert Bracken is the Commander of the Clifton Police Department’s (CPD) Detective Division. Bracken started off with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked for a year and a half before coming to Clifton in 1995. He served on patrol for seven years before becoming a detective, was promoted from Detective to Detective Sergeant, and finally to Detective Lieutenant. Two Detective Sergeants and ten detectives work in his division.

For Lt. Bracken, the most satisfying part of the job is the ability to bring closure to victims or their families. Whether the case involves missing property or loss of life, when detectives are able to put the pieces together and provide answers to those who have been wronged or hurt, it brings a sense of finality to something painful. From there, healing can start. Sometimes, providing that closure is also the most difficult part of the job. Bracken said that having to deliver terrible news, telling people that someone they love is gone, is easily the hardest thing they have to do. His division handles homicides, suicides, and suspicious deaths, among other things, and this is a sad reality of the job.

Since February, The Clifton Times reported on two separate pedestrian vs auto accidents, which are responded to initially by the Traffic Division but detectives are involved when an investigation is warranted. Both cases involved minors but luckily, neither ended in a fatality.

On February 15 a teenage girl was crossing Clifton Avenue near 5th Street and was hit by an oncoming car. Her injuries were severe and she was taken to the hospital, where she remained for over a month. She is currently receiving physical rehabilitation therapies, according to the family, and is on the road to recovery.

Bracken said that this incident was a classic example of a true accident. The teenager had checked for cars before stepping into the street and was not on her cell phone or being otherwise inattentive. There is a blind curve on that part of the road and she couldn’t see the oncoming car, nor could the driver see her. The investigation had originally uncovered no wrongdoing, though the driver was later issued a summons for having an illegally tinted windshield. Windshield tints can be hazardous by reducing visibility, which is why there are regulations governing them. The original story is HERE.

On March 13 a ten-year-old girl was struck by a car in front of Elementary School 14. A parent had let her out of the car on the other side of St. Andrew’s Boulevard from the building, Bracken said, and the girl ran out to cross the street. The approaching car slammed on the brakes but was unable to come to a complete stop in time to avoid making contact with the child, who was taken to St. Joseph’s with non-life-threatening injuries. There is no indication that the driver was distracted or speeding. It was just an accident.

In both of these cases, better pedestrian awareness may have prevented the accidents but sometimes, and especially in a densely populated area with many cars and pedestrians, things like this happen. As the city becomes more congested and the number of cars on the roads increases, so do the number of accidents. Drivers must do their part by always being vigilant and watching for pedestrians, cyclists, and animals who may appear in the road unexpectedly. Parents can help to protect their children by reviewing safety behaviors with them frequently and reminding them to cross in designated crosswalks or at corners. Higher visibility means that drivers have a better chance of seeing someone in the street and having time to respond appropriately.

On March 17, several baggies with antisemitic flyers were discovered on several lawns on and around Maple Place. Police came out to investigate and The Clifton Times received an update from Lt. Bracken, who said that state prosecutors and the Attorney Genera’s office do not treat incidents like this as bias incident because the flyers were distributed randomly and did not target specific individuals. The offender/s was smart, Bracken explained, by including biodegradable materials in the baggies, which helped to prevent them from being classified as litter. According to Bracken, the Attorney General’s office said that this falls under First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression. No suspect has been uncovered, though Bracken acknowledged that there is a group who does this, and similar things, and has for years. They are considered bias incidents, but do not reach to the level of a bias crime. The original story can be found HERE.

Det. Lt. Bracken can be reached via email at: rbracken@cliftonpolice.org.

The non-emergency number for the Clifton Police Department is: 973-470-5900.

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