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Atlantic City Police Chief Henry White

ATLANTIC CITY — Two major police brutality settlements this year have damaged the department’s reputation, but they don’t reflect reform efforts that have cut excessive-force complaints by 75 percent from 2012, police officials said.

The steep decline in complaints has been credited to the department’s use of body cameras, a revamped internal affairs division and the adoption of an early warning system that assesses whether officers are meeting department standards. These changes came under Police Chief Henry White, who took over the department in 2013.

White said his administration has worked to change department culture; the changes needed in the department have already been made, and “zero” changes are anticipated in wake of the settlements.

According to the department’s yearly report, there were 13 excessive-force complaints in 2017, less than a quarter of what they were in 2012, the year Anthony Moore, 41, of Pennsylvania, said he required several staples in his head to close a wound caused by Detective Franco Sydnor during an incident at Bally’s Atlantic City.

Meanwhile, the city is still paying — in reputation and dollars — the price for a lack of oversight in the past.

“They’re unfortunately coming forward now, giving the appearance that Atlantic City has this problem with excessive force when it’s not the case,” Capt. Robert Campbell Jr. said.

Last month, the city reached a $650,000 settlement with Moore, inclusive of all fees and costs, said his lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean.

Earlier this year, a civil jury found retired Atlantic City police Officer John Devlin used excessive force in the 2013 arrest of Steven Stadler, of Somers Point.

The jury also found the department had policies in place that allowed violence by its officers to go unchecked. Devlin was ordered to pay Stadler $500 and Atlantic City had to pay $300,000. Two other officers in the case, Glenn Anthony Abrams Jr. and William Moore, were cleared.

Last year, David Connor Castellani, of Linwood, settled his lawsuit with the city for $3 million. He was seriously injured in an arrest outside Tropicana Atlantic City in 2013, requiring hundreds of stitches to repair bites by a police dog.

In 2013, there were 57 excessive-force complaints, according to police. In 2016, there were six.

“You can understand that it was upsetting for us that we did all this work and we’ve had some really great results as a result of it, and then certain individuals were pushing this narrative forward to paint this picture that wasn’t accurate of what is taking place today,” Deputy Chief James Sarkos said.

Sometimes, the only thing they can do is keep on keeping on.

“I think that Atlantic City has been misrepresented for quite a long time now and still is driving a certain narrative to fit someone’s motive, whether it be lawsuits or making the city look bad or whatever their circumstances are,” Campbell said. “But we keep on moving and increasing our solves rate, lowering our excessive-force complaints, our civil suits.”

Contact: 609-272-7241 Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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