Monday, October 08, 2007


Feds probe Edison police

Incident involves man's deportation

Thursday, October 04, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

Complaints about the arrest and deportation of an Indian man who accused Edison police of brutality have led to a review by an arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

According to a letter from the department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the agency will investigate whether immigration authorities obstructed Rajnikant Parikh's access to the legal system.

Parikh, a liquor store clerk, be came a source of controversy after claiming an Edison police officer used excessive force while arresting him at a 2006 July Fourth event.

Edison officer Michael Dotro charged Parikh with trying to hit him and inciting others to attack him as he tried to disperse a crowd watching an illegal fireworks display at an apartment complex.

A month later, Parikh was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at a rally while he protested Dotro's actions in front of the Edison municipal building. He was deported in April.

At the time of his deportation, Parikh was in ongoing proceedings with Edison over the municipal charges, and he sought the police department's internal investigation reports regarding both arrests.

The civil rights office hears complaints regarding profiling, conditions in detention and the abuse of authority by Department of Homeland Security staff. It has received 300 complaints from August 2003 through September 2006, according to its latest annual report. Of all complaints, 155 remain open, and three-fourths pertain to actions by immigration and border patrol officials.

"It's a positive development," said Ravinder Bhalla, Parikh's attorney in the municipal case. "ICE has a responsibility to investigate whether its employees acted wrongfully."

Edison's internal investigation cleared Dotro and the department of wrongdoing in both arrests of Parikh. But sources familiar with the investigations previously have said Parikh's immigration arrest at the August rally came after Dotro passed information on to his brother, an ICE attorney. Those sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.
Edison Policemen's Benevolent Association President Michael Schwarz had no comment on the federal review. "It was a lawful arrest," he said.

Immigration officials defended their arrest and deportation of Pa rikh, stating he was an illegal immigrant.

Parikh entered the country illegally in 1995 and was caught by U.S. border-patrol authorities in Texas. He was using the alias Amit Sheth and was ordered deported the next year, immigration officials said. Under the name Rajnikant Parikh, he obtained a work visa in 1999. Because of his outstanding deportation order, he was arrested in Edison.

But Dave Makkar, a Springfield resident who made the complaint about Parikh's treatment to the federal government in May, said his questions didn't concern the legality of Parikh's deportation.

"All this effort for someone who had nothing in his record other than the deportation warrant," Makkar said,
comparing Parikh's case with that of Jose Lachira Carranza, one of the men charged in the Aug. 4 shooting deaths of three college students in a Newark schoolyard.

Carranza made bail and was released from jail in May after being charged with sexually assaulting a child. At the time, it was not known to the court that Carranza, a Peruvian immigrant, was in the country illegally.

"Why all that special effort for (Parikh)?" Makkar said. "Because he's from India?"

Parikh is now in his native village, Bhalla said, and intends to file a federal suit against the Edison police department, its mayor and police chief, Dotro and his brother, and the Department of Homeland Security.

"His rights were violated on several fronts by more than one entity," Bhalla said.

Suleman Din may be reached at or (732) 404-8084.