Sea Isle City on Wednesday officially settled part of a racial discrimination lawsuit for $550,000 with a black family who alleged racial discrimination caused them to leave town.
Dorthea Waters-Rice, who now lives in Vineland, accused the Police Department and the school board with racial discrimination, bias and false arrest in a federal lawsuit filed in 2004.
The settled lawsuit relates to the Police Department. A similar lawsuit against the city’s elementary school is ongoing.
In January, Sea Isle City officials were informed its Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund was preparing to approve the settlement.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Camden, Waters-Rice, her granddaughter Anecqua R. Joyce and son Glendon Durham were subjected to discrimination starting when Anecqua, then 9, was excluded from a Christmas play at school in 2003 because of her race, the lawsuit claims.
Her federal lawsuit alleges that after she complained to the school, she was wrongly arrested by police on charges she threatened to kill school officials. One of the issues brought up in court was whether police had probable cause to arrest Water-Rice in the first place.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s office dropped the case in December of 2003. There were conflicting statements regarding why police chose to press charges.
“I did it for my kids, Anecqua and Glendon, because they don’t want to keep up opening old wounds so they can they start the healing process,” Waters-Rice said Wednesday night. “I just hope this thing never happens to no one else who comes down here. Next time, I hope they learn their lesson and they learn how to treat minority people when they do come up.”
Sea Isle City Solicitor Paul Balidni said the allegations of racism by the city’s Police Department are not true.
“I believe the allegations against the Police Department are totally and completely not true,” Baldini said. “The only reason that the insurance company determined to settle the case was the cost of litigation and the fact that the police department had not properly documented the training for its officers.”
Baldini said Sea Isle City police Chief Thomas D’Intino, who took over the department in 2008, has since changed police procedure to involve more documentation, paperwork and training.
Linwood based attorney Joseph Scott, who represented the Police Department, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Waters-Rice moved her family to Sea Isle City in August of 2003 to live with her husband Walter Rice, who has since died. They lived on 43rd Street for about two years before moving from Sea Isle City in 2005.
Her lawsuit alleged police and the school did not take corrective action “to end the hostile, intimidating, and racially discriminatory environment.”
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