Shannon D. Harrington, Staff Writer December 12, 2000, Tuesday Copyright 2000 Bergen Record Corp. The Record (Bergen County, NJ) December 12, 2000, Tuesday; All Editions
(PALISADES PARK, N.J.) -- A Korean-American woman testified Monday that a borough police officer snatched a cell phone away from her as she tried to call her attorney, twisted her wrist, and then proclaimed himself a racist as he wrote her a ticket for double parking in September.
The testimony opened the disciplinary hearing against five-year veteran Kevin Byrnes, who is charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, including making disparaging remarks because of race and failing to remain impartial.
Prosecutors are asking that Byrnes, who has been suspended without pay, be fired.
But Byrnes attorney, Albert H. Wunsch III, has said that officials are blowing the incident out of proportion and that Byrnes was simply trying to avoid an argument with the woman by 1 sarcastically going along with accusations that he was writing her a ticket because she is Korean-American.
The incident took place in a parking lot near downtown.
The woman, Young Ok Jang, had double parked, blocking in a business owner's car. He called police to have the car ticketed.
Byrnes went to the scene and began ticketing the car when Jang returned.
Through an interpreter, Jang gave this account: She and the business owner, Alpine Councilman Herbert Minks, got into an argument over the parking situation while Byrnes asked Jang for her driver's license and insurance card.
Jang questioned whether she had to produce such documentation for a parking ticket, and she asked a passerby if she could borrow his cell phone to call her attorney.
"I told Byrnes I was going to consult with my attorney and then give it to him, "Jang testified.
But as the passerby handed Jang his phone, Jang said, Byrnes snatched the phone away from her and twisted her wrist.
She said she asked the officer why he twisted her wrist. A few moments later, Jang testified, Byrnes yelled out, "OK. Yes, I'm a racist."
Minks testified that he didn't recall Byrnes saying that. He said Jang was belligerent with Byrnes, and at one point asked if he was giving her a ticket because she is Korean.
"She treated the officer as if he were an annoying flea, "he said.
Minks also said he did not see Byrnes touch the woman.
A detective who conducted an internal affairs investigation into the complaint testified Monday that Byrnes told him he did make the race remark, but with sarcasm.
Lt. Anthony Servis said that Byrnes acknowledged telling the woman, "I'm giving you this ticket because you're Korean and not because you're parked illegally."
Servis said he could not find enough evidence to substantiate Jang's claims that she was assaulted.
"However, I did feel his remark about Koreans and being a racist was inappropriate and should be addressed, "Servis testified.
Attorneys on Monday evening were scheduling another hearing.
Once the case has been fully heard by Hearing Officer Steven Muhlstock, he will make a recommendation to the borough's Police Committee.
Staff Writer Shannon D. Harrington's e-mail address 1 is harrington(at)NorthJersey.com