Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cop-Abuse Complaints Raise Calls for Scrutiny

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cop-Abuse Complaints Raise Calls for Scrutiny

Article excerpt

A lawsuit by two men who say police officers badly beat them while they were handcuffed, a charge they back up with a startling surveillance video, is just the latest in a series of complaints that cite Paterson cops for alleged abuse and excessive deadly force.

The city in the past year has paid nearly $700,000 to settle abuse complaints, including a lawsuit by a woman who said a cop slammed her, while handcuffed, to the floor of a holding cell, an incident also captured in video images.

Two lawsuits contend that police officers' actions led to the deaths of civilians, including the shooting death of a mentally ill man last fall, and a city family is considering suing after another man was shot and killed by a cop.

The complaints raise questions about the culture of the Police Department, said a law enforcement expert. Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said the cases suggest a "pattern and practice" of abuse that could point to deeper issues about how the department is run.

Shane, a former Newark police commander, said high-profile instances of alleged police abuse -- like the beatings caught on video -- might not reflect the true number of "contacts" police have with the city's population.

He said the culture of a police department ultimately dictates what will, and will not, be tolerated.

City leaders in interviews this week proposed no new initiatives for investigating possible causes of abuse by city cops.

Mayor Jeffery Jones did not respond to several calls seeking comment.

In reaction to the police beating lawsuit this week, Council President Andre Sayegh said he wanted police training in the city to incorporate the concepts of courtesy, professionalism and respect, the motto on New York City police cruisers.

"Listen, I want an aggressive police force," Sayegh said. "But I don't want an abusive police force."

Councilman William McKoy, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said, however, that the state-mandated training the officers receive is adequate and they don't need anymore.

Public Safety Director Glenn Brown, who oversees both police and fire operations in Paterson, said that officers are trained annually according to the state Attorney General's guidelines for the use of force.

As to what he could do with his department to help his officers understand the state's guidelines, he said, "First of all, I'm not the training officer, but we are examining all of our policies and procedures at this time so that we can upgrade and reinforce training."

Cites 19 officers

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Miguel Rivera of Prospect Park and Alexis Aponte of Paterson allege that city police officers kicked and beat them while they were handcuffed during their arrest on charges stemming from an altercation at a bar. …

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