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.
On December 7, 2013, the City of Union City (Hudson County) agreed to pay $50,000 to two local women who sued members of the Union City Police Department for falsely arresting and maliciously prosecuting them.
In their complaint, Carlene Peguero and her mother Ingrid DeCastro claimed that Union City Police Sergeant Mark Julve, accompanied by Detectives Jasen Bellamy, R. Cetinich (presumably Raymond Cetinich) and Ruben Rodriguez came to their home on August 12, 2011 to execute a search warrant against Jean Peguero (who was Carlene's brother and Ingrid's son). The officers allegedly arrested Jean after finding marijuana and a marijuana grinder in his room.
On September 22, 2011, the Borough of Beachwood (Ocean County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a local couple who sued members of the Beachwood Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force during a traffic stop.
In their suit, Kevin and Maria Chabot said that on August 26, 2007, their truck was pulled over by Patrolman Glen DeMarco. DeMarco allegedly pushed and maced Kevin, with some of the mace getting in Marie's eyes. At that point, Patrolmen Eric Harris and Sean Langan arrived on the scene and arrested Marie. The complaint alleged that Harris applied the handcuffs so tightly that they lacerated Marie's wrists. The complaint further alleged that Harris and Langan hurt Marie's back when they pushed her into an ambulance.
On September 18, 2013, the Township of Lakewood (Ocean County) entered into a confidential agreement to pay $40,000 to a local man who sued members of the Lakewood Police Department for assaulting him and applying excessive force against him.
In his suit, Edwin A. Alicea said that on January 15, 2012, he was stopped by former Lakewood Police Officer Jeremy Felder who "assaulted him without justification and with excessive force." He claimed that Felder forcibly removed him from his car, threw him to the ground, assaulted him and sprayed his face with pepper spray "without justification." According to a March 5, 2014 Star Ledger article (here), Felder was arrested in March 2014 for official misconduct arising out of a separate incident.
On April 23, 2013, the Borough of Lavallette (Ocean County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a Bridgewater Township Municipal Court judge who claimed that Lavallette police arrested him without probable cause after he declined to take a field balance test. He also claimed that the arrest put him "in the throes of a full blow panic/anxiety attack" and that the police chief's quotes to the local press forced him to resign his position.
An open letter to the Dover police officer who called a young woman a "ghetto piece of shit":
To whom it may concern:
This weekend I attended Firefly music festival, and for the most part, I had a lovely time. Between waste management, EMS and Dover PD, I made sure to thank about a dozen men and women in uniform for working those days. Festivals are a nightmare for health and safety workers. You must have been exhausted. There must have been thousands of kids pushing the limits; kids who don't understand that babysitting at Firefly is not what you signed up for. You must have been really pissed off.
That doesn't make this okay. Nothing really would.
Around 1:30 AM on Sunday, you and a few other officers were breaking up an altercation between two young black females outside of "The Hub." The women had been separated and cuffed, and yes, they were saying nasty things to each other.
An interesting study recently revealed that police in New Jersey are more likely to file lawsuits against a police department than your average citizen is.
Jackson pays $25,000 to settle claim that police beat husband and forced wife to use "recommended" bail bondsman
On February 19, 2014, the Township of Jackson (Ocean County), according to a confidential agreement, agreed to pay $25,000 to a local man who sued members of the Jackson Police Department for allegedly beating him and forcing his wife to use a bail bond company allegedly having financial connections to a former Jackson police officer.
In his suit, Salvatore Day said that on December 20, 2009 Jackson police responded to his home because he had been in a verbal altercation with a neighbor. When police were at his door, he claimed that his wife "attempted to close the door momentarily to get [Day's] dogs away from the doorway." At that point, he claimed that officers, including Joseph Candido, Michael Cavallo, James Reynolds and/or Gregory Vidalis pushed the door open and "spun [his] body around, pushed him against wall and threw him to the floor, kneed him in his neck, and yanked his arms behind his back."
On January 13, 2014, the Township of Ewing (Mercer County) agreed to pay $155,000 to a Trenton woman who sued members of the Ewing Police Department for allegedly beating her.
In her suit, Portia Freeman said that on March 5, 2012 Ewing Township Health Inspector Carol Martin, Animal Control Officer Rick Moore came to her home with police to serve a warrant. According to the complaint, the officials were there to investigate a complaint that Plaintiff's sister, who the officials believed was a mentally handicapped juvenile, was being left alone in the home without a working heater.
On January 28, 2014, the City of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $50,000 to a local man who sued members of the Atlantic City Police Department for allegedly stopping and detaining him without probable cause.
In his suit, Jonathan Preston said that on June 16, 2011, he was driving a car in which three other African American men were passengers when he was pulled over by Atlantic City Police Officer Michele Zanes, who is Caucasian. He claims Zanes told all four men to drop what [they] were doing and put [their] hands up" when she approached the car and accused Preston of "getting smart with her" and threatened to take him to jail.
Zanes then allegedly asked Preston for his social security number. Instead of speaking it in front of the others, Preston opted to write it down on a piece of paper and give it to Zanes. According to Preston's lawsuit, "at this point, approximately 12 back-up officers in cars and on motorcycles had arrived at the scene of the stop."
On May 1, 2014, the City of Plainfield (Union County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a local woman who sued members of the Plainfield Police Department for allegedly assaulting her and using excessive force against her.
In her suit, Shelby Vattelle said that on December 19, 2010, during a motor vehicle stop, Plainfield Police Officer Michael J. Auriccio, "threw [her] to the concrete, smashed [her] face into the pavement" without justification. She also claimed that Auriccio applied handcuffs too tightly and threw her to the ground again at Plainfield Police Headquarters. There, she said, another officer "ripped [her] boots from her feet, breaking one of the heels."
On May 11, 2008, the City of Wildwood (Cape May County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a local bar owner who sued members of the Wildwood Police Department for allegedly harassing him and his bar patrons and issuing bogus summonses.
In his suit, Michael C. Petaccio, who operated the Fairview Cafe, said that Officer David Romeo and Sergeant Terry Osler entered his bar on two occasions and harassed his customers even though the establishment was operating legally. In the first instance, Petaccio claimed that Romeo entered his bar on June of 2004, prior to the mandated 3 a.m. closing time, arrested Frank Miller, the D.J. who was providing music that night and later issued summonses for "playing music at one minute past 3:00 a.m." Petaccio claimed that he and his bar were ultimately acquitted of the charges.
A 16-year officer in the Mendham Township Police Department has filed suit against the force, alleging he has been bypassed twice for promotion and denied chances to earn overtime because he refuses to “profile” young drivers for tickets.
On May 5, 2014, the Boroughs of Collingswood and Woodlynne (Camden County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a Woodlynne man who sued members of the Collingswood Police Department for allegedly assaulting and arresting him without probable cause.
In his suit, Earl Whaley said that on August 25, 2008, he was playing cards with his friends on his front porch in Woodlynne. He claimed that even though he was creating no disturbance, Police Officer Brian Eidmann falsely stated that a neighbor had filed a noise complaint and told Whaley and his friends to "keep it down." Whaley claimed that when he "voiced his objections forcefully and with occasional profane word" Eidmann "barged through the closed screen door and onto the screened in porch" and "ripped the chair out from under [Whaley] and then struck him one or more times about the face." Whaley said he was arrested for disorderly conduct but was later acquitted.
It appears from the lawsuit that Woodlynne contracts its police services out to Collingswood Borough.
In an undated agreement, the Borough of Roselle Park (Union County) agreed to pay $15,000 to an Elizabeth woman who sued a Roselle Park Police officer for "illegally, improperly and without probable cause" issuing her a summons for unlawful parking in a space marked for the physically handicapped.
In her suit, and according to an Appellate Division decision, Lorraine Selecky said Officer James Cantrell issued her the summons by mail after Cantrell, while off duty, interjected himself in an "intense argument" that Selecky was having with her 13-year-old daughter as they approached a Redbox video machine outside a 7-Eleven store in Roselle Park. Cantrell was already at the Redbox machine with his children when Selecky and her daughter approached. According to the Appellate Division decision, "a heated argument occurred between [Selecky] and Cantrell, either because [Selecky] thought Cantrell's children were taking too long in making their choice or because Cantrell interjected himself in [Selecky's] mother-daughter dispute."