Camden pays $3.5 million to settle police corruption cases

The city of Camden, N.J., will pay a $3.5 million dollar price for the actions of some corrupt cops who planted and fabricated evidence, according to a court settlement announced today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The settlement resolves lawsuits on behalf of 88 people who served a combined 109 years in prison before having their convictions overturned.

One of the cases involved Joel Barnes, who was at a friend’s house preparing a barbecue in August, 2008 when police raided the home. They came looking for drugs and when Barnes couldn’t tell them where to find them, the police planted drugs on him according to the ACLU, which filed suit on his behalf.

New Jersey ACLU policy counsel Alexander Shalom said the rogue officers repeatedly violated the law.

“(These were) police officers who planted drugs on people, who testified untruthfully at trials before grand juries and so forth,” Shalom said, “and of these five police officers four of them either pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial.”

Shalom said the settlement represents “an effort to make the citizens who rights were violated whole.”

Shalom said Camden is ill-equipped to pay for such misconduct.

“Camden, a city in dire financial straits, can ill afford to serve as an example for other police departments, but it’s a lesson that really does need to be taught,” Shalom said.

“The lesson of course is that if you don’t pay at the outset to develop systems for supervision and accountability within the police department, you’re going to wind up paying on the back end, and that’s exactly what happened here.” he said.

A spokesman said the city is glad to have the matter resolved, adding that the actions of a few rogue police officers should not overshadow the dedicated work of other Camden police.

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