Excessive force talk at Atlantic City High School

Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Agent Joseph McFadden, left, Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Erik Bergman, Chief of Detectives Daren Dooley, Sgt. Tracey Thompson, Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner and First Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Davenport take part in a community discussion on use of force and shootings involving officers Thursday night at Atlantic City High School.

ATLANTIC CITY — Joseph McFadden’s foot tapped the wooden stage in the Atlantic City High School auditorium Thursday night. His voice wavered as he spoke about the day in September 2003 when he was shot while investigating a homicide in Galloway Township, an incident that led to his retirement from the Atlantic City Police Department.

“Shooting incidents, whether police-involved or not, have a lifelong impact, not just on the victims, but the victim’s families, friends and the community in general,” he said. “I hope and pray that we can somehow, someday put an end to this senseless violence that seems to be plaguing our society.”

McFadden, an agent with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, recounted his experience that day, as well as how he has been affected by other times officers were shot on duty, during a community discussion about use of force and shootings involving officers hosted by the Prosecutor’s and state Attorney General’s offices.

The discussion was part of a quarterly series going on in each county throughout the state that will also tackle opioids, immigration and bias crime this year.

It comes on the heels of two federal excessive-force cases in recent months involving officers and the Atlantic City Police Department.

Last month, a settlement was reached in federal civil court between Detective Franco Sydnor, an officer since 2003, and Anthony Moore, 41, of Pennsylvania. Moore sued for alleged use of excessive force during a 2012 incident at Bally’s Atlantic City.

Settlement details were not immediately available.

In another case 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 Police 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.

Thursday’s discussion included tips on what to do when being pulled over so both the driver and the officer can leave the scene safely; a definition of deadly force; the steps for investigating and reporting those incidents; and how legal and internal affairs reviews work.

Sgt. Tracey Thompson shared his experience from 2001 as a deputy sheriff in Camden County, Georgia, when he fired his gun at a suspect who had taken another deputy’s weapon from the holster.

“You never forget,” Thompson said. “You never expect to go to work some day and end up engaged in a gun battle. But it’s something that you have to live with the rest of your lives.

“No police officer that I’ve ever met comes to work hoping that they can use deadly force.”

While the audience was mostly made up of police officers from local departments, a handful of community members attended.

John Zarych, a criminal defense lawyer and chairman of the Community Advisory Board for Jewish Family Services, said the community should support and honor law enforcement, but mental health for the people they encounter is an ongoing issue.

“We owe (officers) our very best efforts to do everything we can to reduce the hundreds of injuries they sustain by dealing with a violent and often mentally ill population,” he said. “As a society, we fail to spend the money necessary that ultimately results in our officers being injured or killed.”

The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office will host a similar discussion from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Union Baptist Temple, 30 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Bridgeton.

Staff Writer John DeRosier contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7241 MBilinski@pressofac.com 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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