Friday, March 14, 2008

Seaside, New Jersey Police Have an Excessive Force Problem

From the Asbury Park Press:

Seven people who claim they were beaten by Seaside Park police have settled their excessive force lawsuits with the borough for a total of $1,271,000, officials here said.

The borough's insurance carrier, the Ocean County Joint Insurance Fund, has previously settled five excessive force claims for more than $1.5 million over the past 2 1/2 years. A total of 14 excessive force lawsuits were filed against the police department over the past three years.

The settlements have included no admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Park or its police department. The officers involved, and their attorneys, have strongly denied using excessive force in any of the cases. No officer has ever been disciplined for any action related to the cases.

But according to sources familiar with the case, the settlement amounts for the seven people are: Richard L. Teague Jr., who will receive $325,000; Jean C. Peguero, $300,000; Robin Seifert, $206,000; Wesley Panckeri, $115,000; Michael J. Jennings, $115,000; James Paul Belowsky, $105,000, and Earl Davis, $105,000.

However, according to the plaintiffs some were seriously injured by the police:

In his lawsuit, Teague, of Long Branch said he had a plate installed in his face to repair fractured bones that he sustained after police kicked and punched him in the head, possibly with a flashlight, outside the Sawmill Tavern and Restaurant on July 24, 2005.

Peguero of Union City said in his lawsuit that he was kicked in the groin while in the lobby of police headquarters on May 28, 2006, suffering a badly injured right testicle.
Seifert, of New Brunswick claimed that she fractured a kneecap and tore a shoulder muscle when she was knocked to the ground by police on Aug. 31, 2003, near the boardwalk concession stand her sister operated.

Thomas J. Mallon, the Freehold lawyer who represented Jennings, Teague, Peguero and Panckeri, along with three other people who had previously settled with the borough, said he hopes there will be no more excessive force claims against Seaside Park.

With the approval of the seven new settlements, only two people, New Vernon resident Alexander J. Casey, 21, and Austin Landi, 20, of Ridgefield Park, still have ongoing excessive force lawsuits against the borough. I think it is time for a change in the practices of the Seaside Police, you think?

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