Report: Camden police top state in excessive-force claims
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- Camden County police led the state last year in the number of excessive-force complaints, according to a newspaper analysis.
The county force took over policing duties in Camden in May 2013, and The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that 35 excessive-force complaints were filed for the remainder of that year.
But there were 65 such complaints made in 2014 -- more than the combined total of Newark and Jersey City, the state's largest cities, which have hundreds more police officers than Camden County.
Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson told the newspaper that excessive-force complaints account for a tiny fraction -- fewer than 1 percent -- of the thousands of arrests each year.
Typically, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office investigates an excessive-force complaint first. If it decides not to criminally charge an officer, the case goes to the Police Department, which investigates whether the officer followed procedure.
Authorities dismissed 44 of the 65 excessive-force complaints made last year. Most of them were "not sustained", meaning there was insufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation.
The remaining 21 are still pending, according to the most recent data, obtained through a public records request. The Inquirer also reviewed excessive-force complaints dating to 2011, and found not one was sustained.
"We train our officers to use the minimal amount of force necessary," Thomson told the newspaper.
The American Civil Liberties Union, though, has questions about how the investigations are handled.
"A rate of 0 percent when it comes to sustaining excessive-force complaints raises serious red flags about a lack of accountability," said Udi Ofer, executive director of the group's New Jersey chapter.