Former Paterson, NJ cop indicted after bodycam reveals misconduct
PATERSON — A Passaic County grand jury has indicted a Mahwah resident who was terminated from his position as a Paterson police officer on multiple charges related to a violent struggle with a man at a city apartment building.
The arrest, suspension, and eventual firing of Spencer Finch, 45, was one of more than 350 cases of "major discipline" against New Jersey law enforcement officers named by the state in the first full year of such data being released by the Office of the Attorney General.
Finch was let go from the Paterson police force in November 2021, about six months after the encounter within the city on May 26 of that year.
On that date, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, body camera video from another officer — Finch failed to activate his own bodycam, OAG said — and surveillance footage showed that Finch advanced on the man in the building's hallway, failed to inform him of his arrest, struck him in the face with an open palm, hit him in the head multiple times with an unauthorized flashlight, and kneed him in the face or chest.
The man Finch engaged, described as the victim in the prosecutor's office release Thursday, was charged by Finch with terroristic threats among other offenses.
The prosecutor's office alleges that in the process of booking the victim, Finch prepared an affidavit of probable cause and a police report which read, in part, that the man was "out of control," took an aggressive stance with a clenched fist, and tried to head-butt Finch after a struggle of several minutes, not mere seconds as the footage illustrated.
The indictment returned by the grand jury charges Finch with second-degree official misconduct and aggravated assault, and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, tampering with public records or information, and perjury.
Arraignment has yet to be scheduled. Finch was released on pre-trial supervision following his arrest.