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 February 23, 2013, the Township of Winslow (Camden County) agreed to pay $42,500 to a local man who sued members of the Winslow Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force upon him.
In his suit, Ronald Brown said that on September 18, 2008 he was sitting in parked car when Officer Sean Richards approached on a bicycle and ordered him to exit the vehicle and place his hands on the car. He claimed that after he complied, Officer Richards handcuffed him and threw him on the ground. Brown claimed that his injuries were serious enough to warrant a one-week stay in a jail infirmary.
On March 4, 2014, the Township of Gloucester (Camden County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a Gloucester City man who sued members of the Gloucester Police Department for allegedly purposefully dropping him, while handcuffed, causing his head to strike the pavement.
In his suit, Scott V. Dove said that on July 23, 2011, he and his wife were confronted by Officers Thomas J. Ritz and Timothy Ryan Kohlmyer while they were walking home from his brother's house. Ritz allegedly ordered Dove to "drop what [he] was holding in his hand" and then handcuffed him. It was at this point that Officers Benjamin Lewitt and Frank Pace, along with Ritz and Kohlmyer, allegedly threw Dove "against one of the patrol cars on the scene and smashed [his] head against same." He claimed that the officers then threw him to the ground, beat him with closed fists and kicked him in the face. The officer allegedly then picked him up to carry him to a patrol car and "purposefully dropped" him causing his head to strike the pavement. He claimed to have received several injuries including a "fractured left orbital socket."
The case is captioned Dove v. Gloucester Township, Camden County Superior Court Docket No. CAM-L-2934-13 and Dove's attorney was Adam S. Malamut of Cherry Hill. Case documents are on-line here.
On June 18, 2014, the Borough of Penns Grove and the Township of Carneys Point (Salem County) agreed to pay $2,000,000 to the four minor daughters of a man who died while in police custody.
In her suit, Judith Mincey, the mother of MoShowon Leach, claimed that Penns Grove Police Officers Raymond Rinnier and Joseph Schultz choked Leach to death during his arrest on March 21, 2010. According to the complaint, Leach was disoriented and "fighting the air" when police were called to the parking lot in which he was located. Leach allegedly ignored the officers' requests for him to stop and while he was entering the residence of a relative, Officers Rinnier and Schultz allegedly "descended upon him, maced him and took him to ground." There, Schultz allegedly told Rinnier to "choke him out." Leach was pronounced dead a short time later. Schultz allegedly said at the scene that “Ray [Rinnier] had to put [Leach] to sleep.”
On September 30, 2013, the City of Union City (Hudson County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a local man who sued members of the Union City Police Department for arresting him on October 2, 2010 without justification and applying excessive force against him.
In his complaint, Plaintiff Franklin Garcia does not recite the particular manner in which the excessive force was allegedly used. It only claimed that William Varona and Frank DePinto, Jr. were the Union City officers involved. Garcia claimed that the charges of Aggravated Assault and Obstruction of justice were dismissed on December 5, 2011.
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 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.