Camden NJ $3.5 Million Lawsuit Against the City

Posted: January 29, 2013 by kbell7 in Uncategorized

Police deviance is defined as an officer knowingly doing or not doing something that is against his or her duty for some form of financial or material gain or promise of such gain (Punch, 2009). A great example of police deviance is the Camden, New Jersey $3.5 million lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of 88 individuals who were convicted and served a combined sentence of 108 years. 5 police officers, 3 of which plead guilty, 1 found guilty (convicted by a jury) and 1  acquitted, were all involved in the planting of evidence, tampering with reports and evidence and committing perjury. The class action lawsuit resulted in a $3.5 million settlement for 87 of the 88 individuals who were convicted and each spent roughly just over 14 months in jail. The settlement will net a profit of roughly $40, 229 for each of the victims of this crime. The police officers have still to be sentenced (sentencing is scheduled for October 2013) but currently the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  3 of the 5 officers have openly admitted to a variety of illegal acts which can be  found on the Gloucester County Times website.

Although there has been much speculation without any real answer as to why these police officers would commit these crimes to begin with, it has been suggested that 4 of the officers openly committed these crimes without the approval of their superiors, for personal and professional gain as well as a laundry list of other possible reasons. Although it is difficult to explain the profile of the 1 officer acquitted, for the 4 others they can be profiled and placed into multiple categories including the meat eaters category which are defined as individuals who take advantage of a position for self gain . Although there may be internal corruption, which is always a possibility, it appears as if these police officers acted alone and consulted very few in order to commit these crimes.

As for the type of corruption, it is difficult to place these officers into one category. I believe they would fit into at least 3, possibly even 4 of the types of corruption. For example,3 of the officers openly admitted to engaging in misconduct for a gain which would place those officers into the kickback category. They also admitted to using their powers in a variety of situations which would further categorize them into opportunistic. They had also sabotaged, tampered and added evidence into cases which would have resulted, if the corruption had not been identified, in these officers possibly moving up the ranks in their units. The types of corruption can be identified as the fix and internal pay-off.

Relating the 2 typologies listed previously, it is extremely difficult to identify the sources of the corruption and deviance.  The profiles of these officers and reasons for committing the crimes can be placed into all three sources of deviance which are: external drive, within the domain and system failure. External drive can relate to stress outside of the work environment, either from family, friends or pressure put on the officers from within the state, possibly the unit leaders in each division or higher up in the chain. Relating to the police domain, the corruption is identified from within the force but how far into the force is impossible to know. Typically in these types of cases, it is only ever acknowledge that the lower ranking officers committed the crimes, while it is possible and most likely that the higher ranking officers and possibly even members outside the unit or force entirely began the overall corruption. This becomes a possibility because of the large amount of cases these officers were involved in that resulted in either a guilty plea or a guilty verdict. Moving beyond the scope of these officers, like I said previously  it becomes a possibility other individuals could have been involved including the chief and prosecution. Both would end up receiving acknowledgement, professional and financial gain without a discussion leaking that they were possibly the co-conspirators. The corruption can also be identified as a system failure, which was further expressed in the ACLU article above. Because it took many years for the department to acknowledge the corruption, these officers were able to continue on and do as they please without any repercussions until now. Hopefully this will set the tone for future officers who wish to partake in illegal activity without the fear of repercussions.

References:

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing. New York, NY: Routledge.

American Civil Liberties Union (January 10, 2013). Camden Agrees to Pay $3.5M Victims of Police Corruption. Retrieved from  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2013/01/10/camden-nj-agrees-to-pay-3-5-million-to-87-plaintiffs-over-wrongful-arrest-claims/

Latest News (January 10, 2013). Camden, NJ Agrees to Pay $3.5 Million to 87 Plaintiffs Over Wrongful Arrest Claims. Retrieved from http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2013/01/10/camden-nj-agrees-to-pay-3-5-million-to-87-plaintiffs-over-wrongful-arrest-claims/

Gloucester County Times (June 29, 2010). Former Camden police officer admits planting evidence, preparing false report. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/camden/index.ssf/2010/06/former_camden_police_officer_a.html

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    Good post! You have selected an interesting case study.

    One point to clarify – there is a distinction between corruption for gain (in general) and kickbacks. Kickbacks tend to be more stable over a period of time, involving an arrangement between the officer(s) involved and another party.

    Why do you think it took so long for these activities to come to light, and for the case to be resolved?

  2. garrettkicksbutt says:

    Two things come to mind when trying to discern why or why not police deviance is delayed in being held accountable. The ‘operational’ definition of their behavior and the police relationship with the community.

    Having two distinct means of behaving in a police department, assumed according to official mandate and one that happens in reality, surely lends to deviant behavior not being addressed by senior officers. Something like sexual harassment within a workplace or grass eating in the community may be something not taken seriously as deviance, especially by an older generation of police officers. This lack of attention cannot help but attribute to a downward slope into deviance not noticed until something happens that could be potentially damaging to the police projected image of themselves.

    As our professor Mike made clear to us at the start of the semester, public perception of the police is very important to the operation of public police services. With public participation the work of a police officer much easier. A good public perception creates a good police force that can receive more funding. Why would an organization, so intent on presenting a positive image to the public at large, allow a few cases of bad apples to be made public? Why would systematic deviance in a machine like the public police be readily publicized? Of course, this information is not easily taken from police agencies and in fact efforts are made to create situations where it is almost impossible by designating information crucial to the integrity of a case.

    My ideas are of a critical nature, asking how ones with such influence in our society not commit deviance, especially when much of their job is in involved secrecy and coercion.

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