Excessive Force on Video Cam.
Union City Police Department was under fire for allegations of police brutality after a young man named Marco Basualdo, Jr., who had aspirations of becoming a police officer, was met with excessive force and beaten by a member of the police department, for resisting arrest and eluding. During the internal investigation the charges were downgraded to a disorderly summons. Video evidence revealed an incident where Basualdo dropped to the ground when instructed but several officers forced him to the ground on his face, and one was burying his knees in his back resulting in facial bruises, nosebleeds, neck pain and back pain since, with a newfound fear of police, and a change in career aspirations due to this negative encounter. The public perception is very important in the safety of its communities and police need to have a positive relationship with its citizens, so they can work together in good faith to achieve peaceful and safe living conditions as the end result.
The Chief of Police has publicly addressed the situation making certain that the community understands the importance of good relations between the Union City Police Department and its citizens as their professional goal is to provide police services with compassion, respect and professionalism. If a member of the community makes a formal complaint, as in this case, it is taken very seriously by the internal affairs department who monitors the actions and behaviors of the Union City Police Department Personnel to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, township ordinances, state and federal laws. The amount of complaints filed in Union City dropped from 65 in 2016 to 46 in 2017 out of these “excessive force” complaints were only 2 in 2017 and 4 in 2016 which is a trend in the right direction overall.
Citizen Complaints Prompting Investigation.
Because the Union City Police Department understands that trust from the public is necessary for strong policing in the community, it considers the importance of an open dialogue between citizens and members of the department. Taking complaints seriously is an important step in ensuring trust because citizens want their concerns regarding police encounters to be heard and acted upon. The process itself should not be off putting to complainants or a matter of inconvenience in having those complaints delivered and heard. Complaints can be delivered in person, through letter or via the website portal. If there is a reason a complainant cannot make a complaint through these methods, a representative can meet at a suitable alternate venue. The internal affairs division accepts anonymous complaints, third-party complains and complaints from unaccompanied juveniles, although it is often better to have parents accompany juveniles. Questions from internal investigations officers will not include those pertaining to individual’s immigration status, so that should not be a deterrent in making a formal complaint against police for negative community interaction and misconduct.
When to File a Complaint.
A complaint should be filed when a citizen witnesses or experiences a personal encounter with Union City Police Department personnel that involves criminal conduct, misconduct, abusive or discriminatory behavior, neglect of duty, corrupt activity, inappropriate demeanor, inappropriate conduct or a violation of rules and regulations of the Union City Police Department or state and federal laws.
Where to File a Complaint.
Complaints can be given in person by the individual by: 1) coming into the department at 3715 Palisade Avenue, Union City, NJ 07087; 2) requesting a police supervisor come to a person’s residence or 3) by arranging a time for a supervisor to meet them at the location of the encounter or incident. A supervisor can respond to a location visit after a call is made to (201) 348-5790; but any Union City Police Officer can accept a citizen complaint.
Actions Taken After Complaint.
All internal and external complaints are investigated by the internal affairs unit, or referred to command-level personnel, depending on the severity and nature of the complaint. Sometimes civil and or criminal lawsuits may follow. Upon thorough investigation, after an initial review of the complaint, a final disposition will be determined. A thorough investigation means interviewing all witnesses, reviewing any physical evidence, reviewing internal records and assessing the credibility of all claims.
Notification of Outcome.
Individuals making formal complaints to the department will be notified of the disposition in writing after the investigation is completed. It will be sent by certified mail to the address provided on the complaint. Investigations generally take 30 days to complete, depending on a number of factors. You may be asked to testify in a criminal court or a departmental hearing if the investigation upholds your allegation against the officer. Disciplinary actions include: 1) additional training and/or counseling; 2) reprimand; 3) suspension from duty; 4) imposed fines; or termination and demotion.
Contact a Lawyer.
If you believe you are, or someone you know is, a victim of policy misconduct, contact an attorney to help you with your cause of action to seek damages to which you are entitled under various state and federal laws. Contacting a lawyer can occur before you file a formal complaint with the department or after, but seeking counsel is a wise decision to measure your need for action and the types of damages that you can sue for.