99% of Police Brutality Complaints in Central New Jersey are Dismissed or Ignored
A large section of New Jersey either has the most wrongly accused police in the nation, or something is amiss with the system for disciplining officers accused of excessive force.
The Central Jersey Courier News and Home News Tribune reviewed hundreds of citizen complaints from 2008 to 2012 claiming excessive force, bias and civil rights violations by officers in more than seven dozen police departments in Central New Jersey.
It found that only 1% of complaints alleging police brutality were sustained by internal affairs units. The national average is 8%, according to a 2007 Bureau of Justice Statistics report.
In many police departments, not a single complaint alleging excessive force or brutality was sustained.
In the city of Elizabeth (population: 127,000), 203 complaints were filed in the five-year period, but not a single officer was found at fault.
Similar outcomes were found in Woodbridge (84 complaints), New Brunswick (81), Perth Amboy (50) and Linden (33), in which complaints were dismissed or never closed, or officers were exonerated for their alleged behavior.
Jail guards of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office provoked 29 complaints, but only one was sustained.
“Those numbers are serious,” Alexander Shalom, a senior staff attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, told the Courier News and Home News Tribune. “This either means you have departments that are exceptionally well behaved or it means departments are not doing a sufficient job of investigating themselves.”
One incident in South Amboy resulted in a federal civil rights lawsuit being filed against the police department. The litigation was filed by Bridget Haymon, who claimed Middlesex County Sheriff's Officer Lawrence Madigan assaulted her in August 2012 while leaving a New Brunswick courtroom.
The complaint stated Madigan grabbed Haymon by the arm, threw her to the ground and jumped on top of her. Madigan tried to shift the blame to Haymon, claiming she had assaulted him. But the local prosecutor dismissed the officer’s report and charged Madigan with lying and simple assault. He got to keep his job after receiving a suspension without pay. The lawsuit is now being settled out of court.
According to Sergio Bichao of the Courier News and Home News Tribune, “Police enjoy a level of workplace confidentiality not granted to private-sector professionals in the state, where complaints and disciplinary rulings against attorneys, plumbers, accountants and hairstylists, all identified by name, are posted on state websites.”
To Learn More:
Hundreds of Excessive Force Complaints against Central Jersey Cops, But Departments Dismiss All But 1% (by Sergio Bichao, Central Jersey Courier News and Home News Tribune)
Court Rules against Chicago Police Code of Silence (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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