FREEHOLD – The grounds in front of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office just got a little more colorful.
Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey and her leadership team were honored to host a Pride Flag-raising ceremony yesterday afternoon, with LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Liaisons and prominent LGBTQ+ community leaders from across the county and state on hand for the occasion. The flag will remain in place for the duration of June’s Pride Month.
“For lack of a better word, we’re all so proud to call our Office a place where everyone can feel fully accepted for who they are, with no exceptions,” Linskey said. “Our message to our constituents is simple: there is no place for hate in Monmouth County, but love in all its forms will always be recognized and respected here.”
The ceremony called to mind several specific initiatives introduced since last fall by Linskey, who today is marking one full year since being sworn in as Monmouth County’s first-ever woman to serve as chief law enforcement executive.
“The blink of an eye,” Linskey said, summarizing her term to date. “But when we take a moment to look back at what we have accomplished, we come to understand how much progress has been made in a relatively short period of time. And I am as honored and humbled today as I was a year ago to serve as leader of the remarkable team of dedicated men and women who protect and serve the people of Monmouth County.”
Within a little more than four months of her swearing-in, Linskey oversaw the launch of four key community initiatives, each intended to enhance the quality of day-to-day policing, countywide: the SAFE PLACE program, the LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Liaison Program, the Police Chaplaincy Program, and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training.
- SAFE PLACE was initially a pilot program launched in three Monmouth County municipalities – Asbury Park, Long Branch, and Red Bank – and this summer, it will be expanding countywide (the municipal police departments in Keyport, Sea Girt, and West Long Branch each announced their participation over the last week). Simply put, the program offers anyone belonging to one of several federally protected classes of individuals safe, secure locations from which to report bias incidents and/or hate crimes. Every local organization, business, house of worship, or government entity choosing to participate in SAFE PLACE – and there are now more than 150, countywide – is given decals for posting prominently in an entrance area, allowing anyone who spots them the assurance that representatives of the location and responding police officers will treat the reporting individual with care, dignity, and respect.
- Through the LGBTQ+ Law Enforcement Liaison Program, many of the more than 50 law-enforcement agencies across the county have now designated one or more department Liaisons; the designee(s) may be any sworn or civilian employee who identifies as LGBTQ+ (or as an ally) and wishes to serve as a connection point between law enforcement and the local LGBTQ+ community. The Liaisons collaborate with those communities to address issues of concern, participate in community events, advise MCPO Assistant Prosecutors and Detectives on cases involving LGBTQ+ issues, and conduct diversity trainings at the Monmouth County Police Academy or in other forums, upon request.
- After hosting an inaugural class last June, the Prosecutor’s Office recently completed its third round of CIT training, which provides officers an in-depth look at mental illness, behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and their implications for a law-enforcement response during a crisis, with a strong emphasis on de-escalation. About half of the various law-enforcement agencies in Monmouth County have now had at least one officer fully trained – including the Long Branch Police Department, from which Detective Sergio Chaparro and a community partner, local Peer Recovery Specialist Nikki Tierney, were recently honored to respectively accept the New Jersey CIT Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and Peer of the Year awards, given for their joint work in saving a life in crisis last summer. Seventeen departments have had multiple officers trained, including the municipal police departments in Asbury Park, Atlantic Highlands, Hazlet, Holmdel, Howell, Keyport, Long Branch, Manalapan, Middletown, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Rumson, Tinton Falls, and Wall Township, as well as the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and the Monmouth University Police Department.
- Finally, MCPO’s Policy Chaplaincy Program was introduced via a formal directive establishing an official purpose, policy, definitions, and procedures for the initiative, including an application process, training guidelines, and a statement of ethics and guiding principles. To be designated as a MCPO Police Chaplain, a candidate must be a duly ordained member of clergy or a faith-based organization, having obtained a degree or certification from an accredited institution or course of instruction, and maintain an active leadership role in an existing religious congregation within Monmouth County. On a rotating, volunteer basis, such chaplains must also be willing able to respond to any emergent situations at which the presence of a chaplain is requested.
“It has become abundantly evident that there is an urgent public call for the sworn mission of law enforcement to evolve far beyond being almost exclusively limited to investigating cases and making arrests. These initiatives have constituted our response to that call,” Acting Prosecutor Linskey said. “We are reaching out and making connections with populations that have been traditionally marginalized and unheard, and we are ensuring that calls for service are met with compassion, humanity, and understanding, all of which is directly benefitting our constituents.”
This has included a constant emphasis placed on addressing the addiction crisis currently impacting Monmouth County and the nation at large, with members of the Office routinely helping to organize and participating in outreach events and initiatives over the past year. Earlier this year, the inaugural MCPO Recovery Diversion Program graduation ceremony was also held in Long Branch Municipal Court, marking the first significant step for a new program instituted to combat substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. The program substitutes peer recovery and treatment services for non-violent municipal court offenders, rather than traditional prosecution; those who successfully complete courses, maintain contact with their peer recovery coaches, and remain arrest-free become eligible to have their charges dismissed and expunged.
All of this has been done while maintaining a strict commitment to the Office’s primary mission: serving the interests of justice. Earlier this year, for example, following an intensive two-week trial, a Monmouth County jury returned guilty verdicts against Scott Kologi, the Long Branch man who fatally shot four members of his own family with a high-powered rifle on New Year’s Eve in 2017. Kologi, 20, was convicted on all charges, including four counts of first-degree Murder and a second-degree weapons offense, following several hours of jury deliberation, and will face a term of up to life in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
The Office has also spearheaded numerous successful investigations into serious and violent crimes over the past year. In one such case, members of the Prosecutor’s Office collaborated closely with three municipal police departments to apprehend the man responsible for a string of bank robberies taking place last fall. Earlier this year, 29-year-old Conor Kavanagh was indicted on three counts of first-degree Armed Robbery in connection with the robberies, which took place in Eatontown, Keyport, and Middletown.
In two recent cases, intensive investigations led to arrests of police officers; a Keansburg officer last month pleaded guilty to a second-degree charge of Attempted Aggravated Sexual Assault in connection with an incident that occurred at a private residence while he was off duty last year. His plea agreement calls for Nicholas Thompson, 25, to submit to permanent forfeiture of public office, registration as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, parole supervision for life, and a sentence of four years in state prison, with 85 percent of the term to be served prior to the possibility of parole.
Earlier this year, an officer with the Hillside Police Department in Union County was charged with two counts of second-degree Vehicular Homicide in connection with an October 2021 motor vehicle collision in which his vehicle drifted off the Garden State Parkway, went airborne, and caused the deaths of two motorists on an adjoining roadway. The investigation determined that 34-year-old John P. McClave III was driving his vehicle recklessly while under the influence of intoxicating substances at the time of the collision.
Numerous assistant prosecutors also continue to distinguish themselves with their work in Superior Court. Earlier this year, for example, a Florida man admitted to falsely portraying himself as a modeling agent in order to manipulate and threaten a Brielle minor into sending him sexually explicit images and videos of herself. Joseph Germain, 31, pleaded guilty to first-degree Manufacturing Child Sexual Abuse Materials and second-degree Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Materials, and is now facing a term of eight years in state prison, 85 percent of which must be served before the possibility of parole.
“However active and visible in the community we are now and will continue to be, it will never come at the expense of ensuring that all indictable criminal cases arising across the county are investigated, charged, and prosecuted in thorough and fair fashion,” Linskey said.
Linskey, a 24-year veteran of law enforcement, had previously served as First Assistant Prosecutor, from 2017 into 2021. She has also formerly held the positions of Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor and Executive Prosecutor since her arrival in the Office in 2013. Prior to that, Linskey worked for 15 years as a Deputy Attorney General in the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), ultimately rising to the position of Acting Bureau Chief. In that position, Linskey routinely provided daily advice and support to each of the 21 County Prosecutors and their employees on prosecutorial management, ethical, legal, and policy issues.