BRIDGETON — City residents have lodged nine Municipal Court complaints, essentially alleging harassment, since August 2013 against the two police officers involved in a fatal shooting last month.
The complainants allege they were victims of unwarranted motor vehicle stops and searches, falsely accused of selling drugs and, in one case, an arrest that resulted in the suspect needing medical treatment.
Seven of the complaints were lodged against Officer Braheme Days, while two residents filed complaints against Officer Roger Worley. All the complaints were dismissed for lack of probable cause, Municipal Court records show.
A complaint filed by Edgewood Avenue resident Billy Flagg Jr. states that on Sept. 18, he was stopped by Days and Worley, who told Flagg they had a “tip” that he was selling heroin out of his car.
“They maliciously snatched me out of the car and began to search me,” the complaint states. “They went in all of my pockets and no drugs were found. They searched my car without my consent and drugs were still not found. This was not the first time I encountered these two.”
Fayette Street resident Shanae Costin alleges in her complaint that, also on Sept. 18, Days pulled up, jumped out of his car and gave her a “charge for speaking true facts.”
“He rides around all day bothering people for no reason,” Costin alleges in her complaint.
And on Aug. 29, 2013, Mount Vernon Street resident Ronnie Hill charged that Days “handcuffed me for no reason.”
“Now (he’s) sending me (jaywalking) tickets through the mail,” Hill wrote in his complaint.
Additionally, Superior Court Judge Richard Geiger in June dismissed a lawsuit in which Percy Patrick, of Division Street, alleges he was handcuffed and sprayed with an eye-irritating substance by Days after being stopped for an outstanding warrant check, court records show. Geiger agreed with the city’s contention that the plaintiff “failed to abide” by various legal requirements involving the filing of the lawsuit, the records show.
The city provided the information regarding Days and Worley in response to an Open Public Records Act request filed by The Press of Atlantic City on Jan. 6. The request followed the fatal shooting of 36-year-old Jerame C. Reid on Dec. 30. Days and Worley were involved in the shooting.
The Press requested information related to any complaints or lawsuits filed against Days, Worley or the city linked to the on-duty actions of Days and Worley from Jan. 1, 2012, through Jan. 6 of this year.
In a statement released Wednesday to The Press, Police Chief Mark Ott said, “In every police encounter there is a 50-50 chance that the party involved in the police action will claim that any police action taken is harassment. The term is so frequently used today (that) it’s become commonplace.”
The city’s Police Department is not practicing “stop-and-frisk tactics,” Ott said, adding that searches must be based on “sound legal grounds.”
“Every citizen has rights to fair trial, rights to appeal and a right to complain about officer conduct,” Ott said. “Not every complaint is substantiated, not every complainant provides accurate information, and in cases where misconduct on the part of an officer is found, action is taken to the best of our ability.
“I can assure you that in the last seven years, there has been more training and disciplinary actions within the Police Department than ever before,” Ott said.
Reid, 36, of Seabrook in Upper Deerfield Township, was shot and killed during a traffic stop at South Avenue and Henry Street the evening of Dec. 30. Authorities said a handgun was “revealed” and “recovered” during the stop.
Days and Worley discharged their service weapons at some point during the motor vehicle stop. Authorities have yet to comment about what prompted the stop, or why Days and Worley opened fire.
Reid was a passenger in the car driven by Long Branch, Monmouth County, resident Leroy Tutt. No charges have been filed against Tutt.
An investigation into the use of deadly force by Days and Worley is being conducted by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office and State Police. The investigation is required under guidelines set by the state Attorney General’s Office. Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae has excused herself from the investigation because she knows Days’ family.
Days and Worley are both on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
In a statement of support for Days and Worley issued Jan. 2, Ott and Capt. Michael Gaimari, the Police Department’s executive officer, said Days and Worley were members of a Tactical Response Team. The team was one of two such units assigned to high-crime areas.
“The department had to step up its proactive efforts in these areas,” the statement reads. “These efforts included a no-tolerance level of policing inclusive of increased motor vehicle law enforcement, loitering and trespassing law enforcement and secondary criminal investigation activity.”
Days and Worley were both responsible for recovering at least three illegal weapons as a result of motor vehicle stops during the past several months, the statement reads. Their actions have “resulted in the criminal element in the area being at unease.”
The Tactical Response Teams were formed 18 months ago, the statement reads.
Findings from The Press’ OPRA request show the complaints against Worley and Days began in August 2013, shortly after the teams went into operation.
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