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Police Rewards Program Abused Power On Palisades Parkway, Report Finds

NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) – An investigation into the death of a motorcyclist during a high-speed police chase last year has allegedly uncovered a shocking abuse of power by one New Jersey police department.

The Palisades Parkway stretches 11 miles north and south along the Hudson River. It is normally policed by 28 officers from the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police Department however, its chief has been temporarily relieved of his post after investigators found that officers basically went rogue on the parkway.

Chief Michael Coppola has been suspended for 3 months without pay after an investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

A report released Friday accuses Chief Coppola of awarding officers who wrote the most tickets or made the most arrests with a $200 meal allowance.

The investigation also alleges that parkway police illegally chased people on the 50 mph road; sometimes at speeds exceeding 130 mph. Officers also reportedly used the internet to lure drug dealers to the area to make arrests.

"I ride it all the time, constantly see people being pulled over," Alpine resident Jim Reno told CBS2's Meg Baker.

In one case, the prosecutor's report found a suspect ran away from police and fell off a cliff. Although the suspect died in police custody, that detail was never reported to the county prosecutor's office.

"I don't believe in rewarding policemen for looking for additional revenue streams through pulling people over unnecessarily," South Plainfield resident Bob Siepmann added.

The report added that the entire department needed to be retrained by the prosecutor's office on policies regarding police chases, use of force, and bias crimes.

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