A white New Jersey police officer still has his job more than a month after he was accused of falsifying a police report and shown on video attacking a Black father frustrated about what he said was a lack of access to his children. Stephen Finch, the officer, was charged with aggravated assault, official misconduct, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, and tampering with public records in the incident on May 26, the Paterson Times reported. Mayor Andre Sayegh released video of the attack to the online newspaper Wednesday after the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office refused to.
The footage showed Finch, a nearly 18-year veteran of the Paterson Police Department, beating the Black father even after he was handcuffed. The mayor told the Paterson Times his team is doing everything it can to “separate” Finch from the police department. “This officer has been charged, suspended without pay, and the city is vigorously pursuing the avenues available to separate him from the police department,” Sayegh told the newspaper on Friday.
Warning: Videos in this story may be triggering for some viewers.
The incident started with another officer calmly talking to the father, who at one point asked the cop whether he was a father. The officer replied that he wasn’t. “You’re not a father. You don’t understand, my n—a,” the man said. “This is the third time my kids have been taken from me.” The officer told the father yelling wouldn’t help and also allowed him time to vent.
Finch was less patient, appearing on camera and seconds later hitting and kneeing the father in the face. “Please stop! Please stop! Please stop!” a woman who didn’t appear in the video could be heard yelling. “Stop resisting,” another person said in the video. The man being pummeled by police said he wasn’t resisting.
Givens, a pastor at the Shiloh African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in New Jersey, told the Paterson Times he is calling for Finch’s termination after this and several other accusations of brutality, some leading to lawsuits. “This is not his first episode,” Givens said. “Should we wait until he kills somebody?”
The Paterson Police Department has a clear record of abuse of citizens. Zellie Mani, a teacher and Black Lives Matter activist, shared video on Twitter of a desk sergeant mistreating someone seeking help in a domestic violence case. “This is why domestic violence and sexual assault victims rarely go to the police,” Mani said.
The Paterson Police Department also had seven police officers plead guilty in a federal corruption probe. Former cop Daniel Pent pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate individuals of their civil rights, using unreasonable and excessive force, and filing a false police report, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Pent and other officers stopped and searched vehicles without cause, stole cash from those inside, and also applied what’s dubbed a “running tax” to suspects who ran from them, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported. “If an individual ran from them, Pent and others would ‘tax’ the individual by striking the individual multiple times, causing bodily injury,” the federal office said.
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