Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gloucester Township pays $30,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On March 4, 2014, the Township of Gloucester (Camden County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a Gloucester City man who sued members of the Gloucester Police Department for allegedly purposefully dropping him, while handcuffed, causing his head to strike the pavement.

In his suit, Scott V. Dove said that on July 23, 2011, he and his wife were confronted by Officers Thomas J. Ritz and Timothy Ryan Kohlmyer while they were walking home from his brother's house.  Ritz allegedly ordered Dove to "drop what [he] was holding in his hand" and then handcuffed him.  It was at this point that Officers Benjamin Lewitt and Frank Pace, along with Ritz and Kohlmyer, allegedly threw Dove "against one of the patrol cars on the scene and smashed [his] head against same."  He claimed that the officers then threw him to the ground, beat him with closed fists and kicked him in the face.  The officer allegedly then picked him up to carry him to a patol car and "purposefully dropped" him causing his head to strike the pavement.  He claimed to have received several injuries including a "fractured left orbital socket."

The case is captioned Dove v. Gloucester Township, Camden County Superior Court Docket No. CAM-L-2934-13 and Dove's attorney was Adam S. Malamut of Cherry Hill.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Dove's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $30,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Gloucester or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Gloucester or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Dove $30,000 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.