Tuesday, February 28, 2012

West Deptford pays $45,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On April 25, 2011, the Township of West Deptford (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $45,000 to Woodbury woman who sued members of the West Deptford Police Department for allegedly shoving and injuring her during an arrest of her grandson.

In her suit, Dorothy Peele, who was then sixty years old, said that on October 11, 2007, West Deptford police officers Michael J. Cramer and Craig Burman visited her home in the Red Bank Run Apartments in order to arrest her grandson who was then a juvenile. She alleges that Cramer "physically assaulted her, grabbed her body forcefully threw her into a chair and knocked her to the floor." She said that Cramer, who was "enraged, verbally offensive and abusive," pushed her to the floor "and held her there with her hands behind her back." She alleges that Cramer arrested her and charged her with aggravated assault, obstructing justice and resisting arrest. Cramer denied Peele's account of the incident and Burman corroborated his account.

Also named in the suit were West Deptford Police Chief Craig Mangano and the Township of West Deptford.

The case is captioned Peele v. West Deptford, Federal Case No. 1:09-cv-02267 and Peele's attorney was Laurence P. Bafundo of Marlton. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Peele's 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 West Deptford or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that West Deptford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Peele $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.