NEW JERSEY – A New Jersey police chief was busted on Thursday for trying to buy cocaine and then having it sent to his post office box, officials said.
Michael Coppola, the 43-year-old top cop of the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police Department, thought he was ordering cocaine through the internet and was having it delivered to a mail spot in Passaic County, Bergen County prosecutors told The Record.
In a probe that also involved U.S. Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, investigators filled a package with fake cocaine and put it in a post office box owned by Coppola, officials told WKXW-FM.
He picked up the package before agents stopped and arrested Coppola on Route 80 in Ridgefield Park, officials said.
Where Coppola, of Totowa, was going after he picked up the package is unknown.
Liz Rebein, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office, declined to give details about what sparked the Coppola investigation. She also declined to say whether anyone else at the department was involved.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Rebein said.
He’s been charged with attempted possession of cocaine.
Coppola’s 28-officer department patrols an 11-mile stretch of the highway between the George Washington Bridge and New York state line.
The chief was reprimanded earlier this year when prosecutors found he ran incentive programs for his cops to write more tickets. The department gave $200 bonuses to police officers who wrote the most tickets.
Moreover, he already is in the middle of a three-month suspension after a Bergen prosecutor’s investigation last month found that he oversaw a reckless police department that routinely violated state rules governing high-speed chases.
It is unclear how Coppola’s arrest will further affect his employment.
Jim Hall, the executive director of the 10-member, bi-state commission, declined to comment Thursday night when asked what action it may take.
“We only found out this afternoon and only have limited information,” Hall said in an email.
Coppola, who did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, has led the department since 2014. He has been an officer with the parkway police since 2001, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Coppola’s first court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 22. He has a criminal exposure of up to five years in prison, although that is highly unlikely.