2 officers wore disguises, damaged cars of man who filed complaint against them: prosecutors

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Two New Jersey officers are accused of wearing disguises and damaging a man’s vehicles after he filed a complaint against them, prosecutors said.

Asbury Park police officers Stephen Martinsen, 29, and Thomas Dowling, 26, allegedly vandalized two cars in two separate incidents in Ocean Grove and Asbury Park early in the morning on Tuesday, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release.

Both cars belonged to the same man, who several days prior had filed an administrative complaint against Martinsen and Dowling.

“The vast majority of law enforcement officers perform their duties with integrity and honor. However, when a police officer takes advantage of the very citizens they are sworn to protect, it erodes public confidence and violates the public’s trust,” Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a statement.

The officers were arrested Tuesday and face charges of conspiracy, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, criminal mischief and unlawful possession of a weapon.

The owner of the vehicles, Ernest Mignoli, told NJ.com that Martinsen and Dowling slashed the tires on his Jeep Liberty and Toyota Prius.

“I just wouldn’t think it would be in the scope of police officers to do something like that,” he said, declining to tell the outlet why he filed complaints against the officers.

“I’m a concerned citizen, outspoken critic of Asbury Park Police Department. But this goes behind the pale,” he said.

When contacted Thursday, Gramiccioni declined to comment on the disguises or how the officers were caught.

Martinsen joined the department in 2013 as a special law enforcement officer and was suspended without pay following the charges, according to prosecutors. Dowling has been with the department since 2015. His employment with the city of Asbury Park was terminated after he was charged.

The Asbury Park Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Police Chief David Kelso said in a statement included in the prosecutor’s office’s release that Martinsen and Dowling’s behavior is “not acceptable.”

“We will not let the actions of these officers overshadow the great work and dedication by the men and women of this department,” he said.