N.J. ACLU details $1M in Newark police lawsuit settlements with residents
August 25, 2010 by admin
NEWARK — Saying it wants to shine a light on the “true costs of police misconduct,” the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has identified 19 lawsuits filed against Newark police officers that were settled or arbitrated since January 2008, resulting in more than $1 million in payouts.
The cases include alleged beatings, malicious prosecution, arrests of people videotaping police, homophobic slurs and at least one sexual assault, according to Deborah Jacobs, the New Jersey chapter’s executive director.
Several of the officers named in the lawsuits had previous complaints against them, including one who had 62 and another who had 45, the group said.
In all, the ACLU found information on 24 settled cases from January 2008 through last month, though financial terms for five of those were not available. At least 31 more cases are pending.
This week, the group began releasing on its website summaries of 12 settled and pending cases, and intends to publish one each day at www.aclu-nj.org. The lawsuits were all brought by citizens.
Work began on “The Settlement Project: Citizen Edition” in the spring, Jacobs said. Information was gathered from open public records requests, court documents and minutes from City Council meetings, among other places, she said.
In an interview today, Jacobs said publishing case details is important because “they demonstrate patterns and types of misconduct. Yes, people might file lawsuits without good cause, however, most do not.” The project is intended to give the public a chance to read the facts of the lawsuits, she said.
The cases posted this week all involve allegations of excessive force or false arrest. The remaining seven will also include unlawful searches, along with an allegation by a veteran journalist who claimed he was assaulted by an officer while filming a street protest.
Jacobs said the $1 million that Newark has paid out is a fraction of what it costs to defend the lawsuits, which includes money that goes to attorneys outside city government, she said.
Esmeralda Diaz Cameron, a spokeswoman for the city of Newark, said: “We can only hope for fair and unbiased presentation of information that accurately reflects the progress that has been made in the Newark Police Department.”
Last month, the ACLU reported that 11 lawsuits filed by Newark Police employees over a similar period of time cost the city $2.1 million in settlements.