Civil Rights Protection Project
For immediate release
Media Contact: Nestor Montilla, Sr.
January 16, 2017
CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATION CONCERNED ABOUT MESSAGING FROM POLICE DEPARTMENT WITH HISTORY OF ABUSES
Trenton N.J.-As we reflect upon the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Civil Rights Movement, the Latino Leadership Alliance (LLANJ) is concerned that the Chief of Police for the Camden County Metro Police Department (CCMP) has a lead role on behalf of law enforcement executives nationally with regards to police officers’ use of force. Will the Chief share the horror stories of countless persons who were prey to abusive police in Camden when he meets soon with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives?
The Camden City Police Department had a history of excessive force complaints and law suits, regarding officers abusing their authority as part of a culture of brutality. In the 1990’s it did a such a poor job of investigating and monitoring complaints of excessive force that a federal consent decree was enforced. Fast forward to 2013, the police department reincarnated itself into the Camden County “Metro” police department touted by high level elected officials as a model of policing, transparency and accountability. Nothing can be further from the reality of Camden policing. Nearly two years after the agency pledged to publicly share use of force reporting at www.publicsafetydataportal.org, the agency has yet to produce a single report for public viewing on the site and has been reluctant to provide the same data to us through New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.
Similar requests by other community advocates and court records have demonstrated that the Metro police department has flaunted Civil Service regulations for hiring and promoting officers.
Background checks were not conducted for newly hired officers at Metro that transferred from the old Camden City police force-with many carrying their citizen complaints of excessive force in tow.
Camden City Police had one of the lowest sustained rates of less than 1% for citizen complaints of excessive force for the decade 2001-2010 per [flawed] annual reports the agency filed with the county prosecutor. During roughly the same period (2005-2011), it had one of the highest rates of in-custody deaths in the state as reported by the Office of Attorney General. As recently as 2015, Metro continues to file flawed and unchallenged public reports where it cannot accurately account for complaints of excessive force. Of the 144 allegations of excessive force against Metro officers from 2013 to 2015, only 3 were sustained. It is not uncommon for Metro officers under investigation to leave the agency and get hired by other New Jersey jurisdictions, effectively closing the cases against them.
The Latino Leadership Alliance maintains the State’s largest database of police use of force incidents which allows us to share data with community stakeholders, journalists and law enforcement executives. Our efforts have improved community relations and have enhanced police accountability, transparency and less-lethal force options. The Metro Police Department is the antithesis of these efforts and its leadership continues to stonewall transparency and hoodwink elected officials while the community suffers from an oppressive and brutal police force that deserves immediate federal intervention.
“We have been monitoring the Camden police force for over seven years now and we remain steadfast in our commitment to the community to assist residents in holding their police officers accountable,” stated Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla, LLANJ President.
“Metro Police officers can change the patch on their shoulders, but a leopard can’t change its spots,” said Jose Martinez, Co-chair of the Alliance’s Civil Rights Committee.
“A few bad apples on the Metro force taint the hard-work and dedication of their peers, all while under the blind eye of police commanders and a Chief of Police that enrich themselves with higher salaries and unprecedented promotions,” observed Rich Rivera Co-chair of the Alliance’s Civil Rights Committee.
The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey is the largest and only statewide non-partisan non-profit organization composed of local, regional and state community-based organizations, leaders and professionals advocating for civil rights and the socio-economic and political development of Latino diverse communities. www.llanj.org
Mailing address: P.O. Box 494 Totowa, New Jersey 07511 Telephone: 732-249-0400 Fax: 888.880.4405