Excessive-Force Complaints Double Under New Camden NJ Police Force


Since a new, county-run police force took over in May 2013 in Camden, N.J.. with the promise of making its officers trusted community guardians, not just law enforcers, the number of excessive-force complaints has nearly doubled, from 35 after the takeover that year to 65 in 2014 — the most in the state, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Even the combined total of Newark and Jersey City, the state's largest cities, which have hundreds more officers, was below Camden's. Of the 46 complaints in 2013, 35 were against the Camden County Police Department, which took over policing in the city of Camden in May 2013. The other 11 were filed against the city’s previous police department, which patrolled Camden prior to being disbanded. Interviews with those who filed the complaints and others reveal a pattern of stops, often for minor offenses, that rapidly escalate.

Some individuals stopped have ended up in the hospital. An analysis of four incidents for which The Inquirer interviewed detained and reviewed hospital and police reports reveals a pattern in which stops usually made for minor infractions rapidly escalate. Three of the four individuals involved either filed complaints of excessive force or initiated related claims. Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson says excessive-force complaints account for a tiny fraction — fewer than 1 percent — of the thousands of arrests each year. The American Civil Liberties Union is struck by another statistic: zero. That's how many excessive-force complaints authorities in Camden have upheld against officers in recent years.

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