Police Accountability Project
The Police Accountability Project is a committee of the NJ Libertarian Party. Its goal is to search out cases of police misconduct, file former Internal Affairs (IA) complaints when appropriate, and to publicize violations of rules and laws by the police. There may be other stories posted on the NJLP Police Internal Affairs Complaint Blog page.
The New Jersey Attorney General's Vehicle Pursuit Rules require each law enforcement agency to annually prepare a "Vehicular Pursuit Summary Report" setting forth the number of police vehicle pursuits and the number of accidents, injuries and deaths resulting from those pursuits. I collected examples of these summary reports from two police departments at opposite ends of the state--Bridgeton (Cumberland County) and Mahwah (Bergen County). I have placed the reports on-line here.
The reports help citizens get a sense as to how frequent police chases are in their towns. They also provide information that can lead to additional Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests. For example, Bridgeton's 2013 report shows that one police injury and one police car accident occurred during a high speed chase. Interested citizens could request the police report for that incident.
Submachine Guns: The Gift That Keeps On Giving - Donation of Submachine Guns in Lakewood Raises Eyebrows
It's already controversial for our nation's local police departments to receive surplus assault rifles and equipment from the US military for use by law enforcement officers. It's a whole other ball game for these weapons to be donated by a member of the community in appreciation of the police's help with a local religious festival.
Records show that an unnamed religious community events organizer was so appreciative of the help that New Jersey's Lakewood Township and its police department gave during a September carnival that they wanted to make a donation to the local police department. What did this anonymous organizer want to donate? 10 brand new assault rifles from Israel. Ones that they had test fired themselves on their last trip there.
On November 26, 2014, the Ocean County Department of Corrections agreed to pay $25,000 to a county jail inmate who claimed that he was assaulted by a jail guard. Additionally, the jail guard was charged with aggravated assault and resigned from his job after entering the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI).
In his suit, Armando Penales said that on December 22, 2012, while he was in the Ocean County Jail awaiting sentencing on a robbery charge, he was assaulted "without justification" by Corrections Officer Timothy Browning. He also claims that he was denied medical treatment for the injury he received and that Browning filed a disciplinary charge against him for "Refusing to Obey an Order of any Staff Member" which was later dismissed.
On Tuesday Mathew Reardon was arrested for making a statement on Facebook. He stated "Don't wanna get clipped while sitting in your squad car?? Don't be a (expletives deleted) pig who's looking to get killed...Everyone who goes out of their way to (expletive deleted) with other people should get executed in cold blood."
The statement, while offensive, was not a direct threat. His statement was made just days before the funeral of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos who where killed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley while they sat in their patrol car.
I understand the increased level of alertness since the shooting, however this is a disturbing use of police force. Stupid statements made on Facebook by citizens and police alike do not warrant police action.
After publishing the $145,000 racial discrimination settlement between Plainfield and a police aide, I decided, just for fun, (I know. I have a pretty warped sense of what is "fun") to search the court indexes and submit OPRA requests for other interesting court cases involving Plainfield.
Today, I received the following court cases from Plainfield City Clerk Abubakar Jalloh:
Officer Jason Miller has been arrested for exposing himself several times to drivers he had pulled over in Newton, NJ. Five separate incidences have been investigated where Officer Miller has either exposed himself or made inappropriate statements to male drivers.
Officer Miller has been released on $35,000 bail and has been placed on unpaid leave.
On December 10, 2013, the Township of Howell (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a Toms River man who sued a Howell Police Officer for injuring him when he was placed in a squad car.
In his suit, Douglas Kessel, vaguely claims that on January 15, 2009, an officer identified as "John Doe, Badge No. 189" "placed [him] in a the back of a squad car and . . . caused [him] to sustain severe, serious and permanent injuries."
On September 11, 2014, the Town of Belvidere (Warren County) agreed to pay $45,000 to a local woman who sued members of the Belvidere Police Department for allegedly assaulting and falsely arresting her.
In her suit, Lisa Patton said that on February 10, 2011, her daughter called police after the mother and daughter had an argument over proper dosage of the daughter's prescription medicine. According to the complaint, Patton's daughter had substance abuse issues and wanted to ingest more of the medicine than prescribed and Patton wished to limit her daughter's medication intake to the prescribed dose. Belvidere police officers Matthew Scott and Frank Tootle, III went to the family home and both Patton and her son told them that the daughter had already had her prescribed dose that day.
On April 30, 2014, the City of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $200,000 to two local women, who are sisters, who sued members of the Atlantic City Police Department for allegedly beating them and unleashing a police dog on one of them.
In their suit, Shaheedah Woodall and Khadijah Woodall said that they were at Bally's Hotel and Casino on August 8, 2010 when a fight erupted on the casino floor. Shaheedah, who is partially disabled and uses a cane, was knocked to the ground during the fight and lost her cane. According to the suit, Bally's security officers made everyone leave the casino and wait outside. After the police had arrived and everything calmed down, Khadijah said that she asked the police officers for permission to re-enter the casino to retrieve Shaheedah's cane. After having been denied re-entry by several officers, the sisters claimed that Officer Natane Naylor wrapped her hands around Khadijah's neck and pushed her to the ground. The complaint alleged that Naylor, along with Officers Syed Shah, Grace Cook and Joseph Procopio then "unleashed a savage attack on Khadijah, which included numerous punches to the head and face, kicks to the ribs and midsection." Officer James Hurley then allegedly grabbed Shaheedah from behind and called her a "crippled n****r whore." Shaheedah claims that a police dog, handled by Officer Gary Stowe, then ripped into her and disfigured her left breast. Shaheedah claims that she was so scared that she lost control of her bowel functions.
On July 30, 2014, the City of Long Branch (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $175,000 to an Oceanport man who sued members of the Long Branch Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force upon him.
In his suit, Ralph Mazza said that on May 25, 2012, he was present at his sister's home when she had called police because of unwanted guests at her residence. He claimed that he "was assaulted without justification and excessive force" by Officers Alfred K. Cistaro and Joseph Kennedy "as be spoke with his sister about the summons issued to her by [police]."
East Newark pays $101,000 plus attorney fees to settle former police dispatcher's lawsuit claiming forced oral sex
On July 25, 2014, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mary K. Costello confirmed an agreement under which the Borough of East Newark (Hudson County) agreed to pay a Borough former police dispatcher and volunteer firefighter $101,000 in damages, plus attorney fees to be established by the court, to settle her lawsuit which claimed that she was repeated assaulted sexually by a Borough police sergeant. In an October 8, 2014 application to the court, the woman's attorney applied for attorney fees of $786,247.50, costs of $36,563.90 and a "contingency enhancement" of $393,123.75 for a total award of $1,215,935.15. Judge Kimberly Espinales-Maloney is scheduled to hear the attorney's application on Friday, November 7, 2014, 9 a.m. in Courtroom 807, 595 Newark Avenue, Jersey City.
On September 18, 2013, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $19,500 to a local woman who sued the City's police department and municipal court for failing to note in their computer systems that she had already posted bail, causing her to be arrested and processed twice for the same offense. The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office, which was also named in the lawsuit, separately paid $3,000 to the woman.
On November 19, 2010, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $442,500 to a local man who sued members of the Bridgeton Police Department for allegedly beating him and fabricating charges against him. In addition, the city also paid $87,500 to the man's two co-plaintiffs.
In his suit, Thomas Bard, along with co-plaintiff's Donald Thomas and Jay Hall, all of whom are African-American, alleged generally that the Bridgeton Police Department "entered into a conspiracy to deprive minority residents of the City of Bridgeton of their civil rights under a pretext of combating drug trafficking and 'gang activity.'" According to the lawsuit, Bridgeton Police had a long history of routinely profiling racial minorities and targeting them for motor vehicle stops, arrests without probable cause and physical assaults. $442,500 was paid to Plaintiff Thomas Bard. and the city's insurer confirmed that co-plaintiffs Donald Thomas and Jay Hall, Jr were paid $7,500 and $80,000 respectively.
On July 16, 2014, the Township of Lacey (Ocean County) agreed to pay $10,000 to three brothers who sued members of the Lacey Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force, falsely arresting them and searching their premises without a warrant.
In their suit, Daniel, John and Joseph Samoles said that on May 27, 2010, police were called after Bessie A. Patten "attempted to extort money from Plaintiff Daniel Samoles at gunpoint." Daniel said that he called police after disarming Patten and that Officers Brian Flynn, Adam Ewart, Gerald Noda, Paul Sullivan, Thomas Bruce, James Veltri and James Wood arrived at the residence. The officers, with guns drawn, ordered the brothers out of the house and told them to get on their knees and raise their hands. The men, who claimed that their home security camera recorded the event, said that the officers arrested them and applied excessive force even though the brothers complied with all police commands. The brothers said that the officers then went into the house without a warrant and searched the family's personal belongings. They also claimed that $2,000 was stolen.