Burlington County, NJ Law Blog

Monday, June 22, 2015

New Jersey State Police Ordered to Release Video Allegedly Depicting Assault

What happens if an alleged criminal perpetrator is subjected to unfair treatment by police in New Jersey? 

We are all aware of the old adage confirming all are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, however, criminal suspects are commonly subjected to punishment and brutality to a degree completely incongruent with the alleged crime – and the problem seems to be escalating across the United States. 

In New Jersey, police are not exempt from the rule that criminal suspects are to be treated fairly and safely for the duration of their arrest, holding, and incarceration period. In the event a police officer commits assaultive conduct against a suspect, the officer can – and should – be held to the same criminal standards as all other members of the civilian population, provided the maneuver in not considered self-defensive or in response to threats of force by a suspect. 

In one recent case involving both civil and criminal components, a New Jersey State police officer was indicted on criminal assault charges, as well as targeted civilly by the state’s Advance Media, following an incident of brutality – the details of which are discussed below. 

NJ Police Officer Ordered to Turn Over Dashboard Camera 

In July 2014, a New Jersey state police officer arrested a suspect following a high-speed vehicle chase through the Newark area. Once the suspect was handcuffed and fully subdued, the officer allegedly kicked the suspect directly in his head with his boot. Following a tip, New Jersey’s Advance Media requested a copy of the dashboard camera that recorded the incident – presumably for purposes of exposing the alleged instance of brutality. After months of stalling, the state police eventually refused to release the video, citing to the ongoing investigation. 

In March, 2015, the officer involved in the incident was convicted of simple assault because of the incident. Shortly thereafter, Advance Media sued the state police in civil court demanding the disclosure of the tape under the Open Public Records Act. Finally, in June, 2015, the judge ordered the tape be released and concluded that a dashboard camera is not a protected “criminal investigatory record” akin to other types of records obtained following a criminal charge. More specifically, the judge highlighted that “State Police policy requires the officers to create dash cam recordings in motor vehicle stops.”

If you are concerned about a recent incident involving state or local police, or are in need of the immediate help of a criminal defense attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the Burlington County attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler today by calling (609)267-1101. 

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