ORANGE — Thursday afternoon’s scuffle in which Police Officer Hanifah Davis was caught on video pulling teen girls’ hair outside the city high school marks the second time this year the officer has been involved in controversy in the community, police officials said.
About 45 days ago, Davis — who has been a police officer in Orange for about three-and-a-half months — was caught on camera while breaking up a large group of people in Orange who were allegedly loitering and gambling, Police Director Todd Warren told reporters Friday.
While trying to break up the crowd, one man allegedly refused to move, Warren said. While Davis was arresting the man, the group began moving toward him, prompting Davis to flash his gun, and wave it at the crowd, “to stop them from approaching him,” Warren said.
The incident, which was spread around social media, prompted an investigation, which Warren said is still ongoing.
Davis was suspended Friday, pending a separate investigation into his caught-on-video altercation with twin high school seniors Nyasia and Kyasia Sorrells. City officials said a determination has not yet been made as to whether or not Davis will receive pay while he is suspended.
In an interview Friday, the 17-year-old twins said they had seen the officer around town before, but hadn’t had any interaction with him before Wednesday night, when they were driving home in an Uber car with their mother and cousin.
Davis pulled over the Uber driver, and according to the twins and their cousin, insinuated they were prostitutes, by asking them if they were “working tonight.”
They girls filmed the traffic stop, too.
City officials said Friday afternoon they were unaware of the prostitution-suggestion allegation, but said the department was investigating the stop as part of its probe into the altercation, which happened after school the next day.
Davis only started working in Orange earlier this year, Warren said.
“I think he’s still feeling his way…he hasn’t been here very long,” Warren said.
Previously, city officials said, he worked for the Union County Sheriff’s Department.
He moved to the Orange department, officials said, via an intergovernmental transfer, which the city said was a way to bolster its police ranks without sending new cadets to the academy. The state describes the transfer program as a “voluntary program which offers New Jersey’s Civil Service employees the opportunity to transfer from one jurisdiction to another.”
The city was not previously privy to Davis’s disciplinary record in Union County, officials said. As part of its current investigation, those records will become available, they said.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment. State pension records show Hanif Davis as a Union County employee beginning in July 2015.
A call to the Orange Police Benevolent Association was not immediately returned. Calls to numbers listed for Davis were not answered.
Friday morning, hundreds of Orange High School students and community members marched from the school to police headquarters to protest Davis’ altercation with the twins, and demand his firing.
Officials urged calm as the investigation, which is being carried out by the Orange police and overseen by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, is complete.
But, Warren told reporters, Davis’s actions are concerning.
“We don’t condone that type of behavior,” he said.