On October 14, 2010, two officers in the Gloucester City (Camden County) Police Department agreed to pay $45,000 to a Woodbury man who sued them for allegedly falsely arresting and using excessive force against him.

In his suit, Reginal Gaines, a 45 year old, African American man, said that on July 7, 2006 he was pulled over by Gloucester City Police Officer James Little for “not having a tag light and for failing to use a turn signal.” Gaines claims that Little, without provocation, sprayed mace in his face and eyes.

He alleged that Officer J. Flood (presumably Jason S. Flood) threatened to have Marco, a police dog, attack him. Further, he alleged that Officer Carlos A. DePoder tackled him to the asphalt without provocation.

Gaines stated that he was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction and aggravated assault on a police officer held under $20,000 bail. According to a March 3, 2010 court opinion, Gaines was later found not guilty of those charges in Audubon Municipal Court.

According to the court opinion, the mobile video camera on Little’s car ran out of videotape prior to the arrest and Flood’s vehicle camera also did not record the police interaction with Gaines because of the way it was parked.

The two officers who settled were Little and DePoder. Also named in the suit were Gloucester City Police Chief William G. Crothers, Deputy Chief Michael Kaye, Lieutenant G. Berglund (presumably George J. Berglund) and several official from Audubon Borough. These officials, as well as Flood, were dismissed from the suit.

The case is captioned Gaines v. Gloucester City, Federal Case No. 1:08-cv-03879 and Gaines’ attorney was Ronald P. Sierzega of Woodbury. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Gaines’ allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $45,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Gloucester City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Gloucester City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Gaines $45,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]