Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paterson Police Lawsuit Costs Hit $1.35M

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paterson Police Lawsuit Costs Hit $1.35M

Article excerpt

During the past

16 months, the city has paid more than $1.2 million to

settle five other

lawsuits alleging

police misconduct

PATERSON — The city has agreed to pay $140,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who accused a Paterson police officer of body-slamming him to the ground during a dispute over alleged public drinking.

During the past 16 months, the city has paid more than $1.2 million to settle five other lawsuits alleging police misconduct such as excessive force by officers and false arrests.

The most recently settled lawsuit claimed the Paterson Police Department has a track record of failing to hold its officers accountable for wrongdoing and described the Internal Affairs investigations conducted by the department as shams.

The federal complaint also alleged that the Paterson department tolerated excessive force to such a degree that "officers felt that they could violate the rights of citizens with impunity."

The lawsuit identified Police Officer John DiTaranto as the primary offender in the incident. DiTaranto, who has been on the force since 2005, currently is suspended with pay in an unrelated incident, officials said. Details of the other case have not been made public.

"I hope this case will prompt Paterson to conduct more serious and substantive investigations of complaints against its police officers," said Aymen Aboushi, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the man who claimed he was body-slammed, Christian Reyes.

"They need to do a better job policing their police officers and making sure the public is protected," said Aboushi.

In approving the settlement last Tuesday night, the Paterson City Council expressed frustration with the case and the track record of litigation involving law enforcement officers, with several members expressing a need for better controls over police conduct.

"Habits are easy to learn and difficult to break," said Councilman Michael Jackson, who cast the only vote against the settlement.

Council President Ruby Cotton said she hoped the city would be able to avoid such lawsuits. …

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