Friday, March 11, 2016

Camden pays $35,000 to settle police excessive force claim.

On January 12, 2016, the City of Camden (Camden County) agreed to pay $35,000 to a man who claimed that he suffered broken ribs at the hands of two Camden Police officers who, according to a police expert, were the subjects of at least 19 Internal Affairs excessive force complaints.

In his suit, Robert Noble, a handyman, said that after dropping off his helper at about 7:30 p.m. on January 26, 2012, he decided to take a nap in his van before returning to his home in Blackwood.  He was noticed by Officer Christopher Frucci who, along with Officer Jeffrey Frampton, was providing support and protection to State Parole officers who were conducting parolee checks in the area. After Noble yells at Frucci for shining a flashlight in his eyes, he is ordered out of the van at which time an altercation erupts that results in Noble being taken to the ground face first and punched and kicked by the officers.  He is later treated at a hospital for broken ribs, bruises and abrasions. Noble is charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest, but the charges were later dropped.

Included in the documents at the link below is a August 1, 2014 report by police expert Richard Rivera.  Rivera reported that "Frampton and Frucci . . . together had at least 19 complaints against them for excessive force alone."  Rivera, however, labeled the Internal Affairs unit "dysfunctional and inept" in conducting excessive force complaints filed against Camden officers.

The case is captioned Noble v. City of Camden, et al 1:13-cv-04391 and Noble's attorney was Gabriel Z. Levin of Philadelphia. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Noble's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants. All that is known for sure is that Camden or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Noble $35,000 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.