The latest lawsuit against the Newark Police Department, filed earlier this week, involved a 17-year-old student.
In March 2010, the student was riding on a city bus when a man in front of her collapsed. Two Newark police officers responded to the emergency. Meanwhile, she began recording the incident on her cell phone. The police officers asked her to stop upon realizing that she was recording.
When the student refused, the lawsuit alleges that the police officers grabbed her arm, pull her off the bus, handcuffed and arrested her, took away her cell phone, deleted the video footage, ignored her request to call her mother, and took her to a juvenile processing center, then to an adult processing center.
The student was then released, without charge, and dropped off at her mother’s workplace. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) and the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice. It alleges illegal search, seizure, and detention.
By law, filming in public places is completely legal. (A signed release is only required if the footage will be broadcasted for commercial purposes). If the filming obstructed with police activity, it would have been prohibited. However, the lawsuit alleges that the student was at least 10 feet away and therefore did not interfere with police activity.
The Newark Police Department has been the target of several allegations in the past few years.
In 2010, a plain clothes Newark police officer beat and subdued a 15-year-old boy. The police officer attacked the youth without an obvious physical provocation, as seen in the video footage below. The teen suffered cuts in his face, his braces tore through his lips, and some of his dreadlocks were ripped from his scalp.
Below is footage of the incident:
In 2008, when a CBS cameraman was filming a protest in Newark against street violence, a Newark Police officer handcuffed him, placed him in a chokehold, and put him in a police cruiser.
The police officer did so after the CBS cameraman refused to stop filming upon the request of the police officer.
Below is footage of the incident:
In 2010, the ACLU-NJ filed a lawsuit to request that the US Department of Justice investigate the Newark Police Department. The lawsuit alleges that the Newark Police Department has “engage[d] in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers . . . that deprives persons of rights, privileges or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”
The lawsuit described 407 allegations of misconduct. Below are some of them:
- A witness in a murder trial was intimidated by police officers who threatened to go to her home and “knock down some doors.” The police eventually obtained a search warrant and raided her house. During the raid, “the officers involved ransacked [her] apartment, stole money and other property, and generally terrorized [her] and her children.”
- When a prisoner was in custody, another prisoner asked him where one can file an internal affairs complaint. The prisoner answered the question. After a police officer heard his answer, he struck the prisoner on the face and body, “resulting in broken bones and facial fractures.” The prisoner's “jaw [was] broken in two places, so that it had to be wired shut and a metal plate inserted in his chin.”
- A juvenile was ordered by police officers to admit involvement in a crime. When he refused, the officers threatened to throw him over a bridge. When told by a supervisor to take the juvenile home, the police officers instead “took him to a secluded location, beat him, urinated on him, and left him there.” The juvenile complained to internal affairs and submitted the t-shirt he was wearing during the incident as evidence. However, the Newark Police Department “claimed it found no evidence of urine on the shirt” and then claimed to have lost the shirt.
- A minor was “violently” arrested on car theft charges. He was kept ounder “house arrest” for over 2 months until the police caught the real thief.
- A man was accused of drinking in public by the police. He was then, “at gunpoint,” ordered “on his knees against the gate of his residence,” struck numerous times, and had beer poured in his face.
- A man dated a woman whose girlfriend’s mother dated a police officer. The man got in an argument with his girlfriend and damaged her mother’s car. The girlfriend’s mother’s boyfriend then “organized a posse,” “forcefully” entered the man’s house, beat him up, sprayed “a chemical spray in his eyes.” When he was taken to the hospital, another police officer beat him. Then, “the officers filed assault charges against him, and waited five days before taking [him] before a judge.
The Newark Police Department did not immediately return IBTimes’ request for comments.