Excessive use of force by police officers continues to be a problem in many New Jersey towns. Police brutality can cause permanent injuries leading to significant medical and rehabilitation costs, as well as an inability to work. Moreover, it erodes the trust between public safety officials and the communities they serve, thus compromising the safety of everyone. Atlantic City is the latest city under scrutiny for its alleged excessive use of force by its police officers.
Individuals filing excessive force complaints in federal courts allege varying degrees of police brutality and misconduct. Some of the most common allegations include:
Atlantic City is one of the most visited towns in New Jersey, claiming to have over 30 million visitors each year to its famous casinos and beaches. Approximately 40 percent of its residents live below the poverty level. With such high tourist numbers and such a poor population, policing the city can be challenging. Atlantic City police officers must address not only tourist-related crimes, such as theft, but also crimes persistent outside the tourist season, including drug offenses, prostitution, and violent crimes.
According to an investigation conducted by NJ Advance Media between 2012 and 2016, Atlantic City police officers used excessive force in over 2,800 instances. The city had one of the highest rates of reported police force used, with 11 percent of all arrests allegedly involving force. The report indicates its police officers were five times more likely to use force than their counterparts throughout the state. The costs of defending and resolving these matters exceeded six million dollars, all paid for with taxpayer funds.
Within seven years, over 500 excessive force complaints were filed with the Atlantic City Police Department. Its investigators determined only two complaints to be credible, which is much lower than the national average of cases found to have merit for similarly sized police departments. Victim advocacy groups believe failure of police departments to properly investigate and address police brutality is a large part of the ongoing problem. Many officers are promoted or appointed to higher positions, regardless of the number of excessive force complaints filed against them.
The problem with the increase in excessive force complaints has been compounded by the state’s poor tracking system. New Jersey lacks a statewide method for tracking excessive force complaints against police officers. There are no standard practices among the local police departments for collecting accurate use of force data. Police department insiders believe changes, such as the use of body cameras, electronic early warning systems advising officers of complaints filed against them, and reorganized internal affairs units can help reverse the trend of excessive police force.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of police brutality, you may be entitled to compensation. At Williams Cedar, our experienced Pennsylvania and South Jersey civil rights lawyers handle excessive force cases by police officers. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly represent clients throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and nationwide. To set up a free consultation today, call us at 856-470-9777 or 215-557-0099 or contact us online.