City Had Balked at Hiring Cop In Holding Cell Attack Case
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 • 6:21pm
PATERSON, NJ – The police officer accused of attacking a handcuffed woman in a holding cell in 2011 originally was rejected when he applied for a job on the Paterson police department, according to city records.
In 2003, Paterson removed Michael Avila from its list of candidates for police officer jobs because he was deemed unfit for medical reasons – a history of seizure disorder, the records show.
But Avila filed a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Personnel appealing the city’s decision to drop him form the hiring list. A state Medical Examiners Panel reviewed Avila’s medical history and determined that Avila would not pose a threat as a police officer, the records show. As a result, the personnel department ruled that Avila be placed back on the hiring list and he started on the force in 2004.
PatersonPress.com obtained copies of the records on Avila’s case against the city through the Open Public Records Act.
City officials say Avila is currently serving a 90-day suspension stemming from the alleged March 2011 attack in the holding cell attack that was captured on video by a police department surveillance camera. A grand jury last fall decided not to indict Avila in the case.
But the alleged victim, 29-year-old Linette Vazquez, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, the police department and Avila.
Vazquez’ attorney, Nancy Lucianna, said she did not have enough information to determine whether Avila’s medical history was relevant to the charges made in the lawsuit.
“We don’t know how it impacted him,’’ said Lucianna. “We’re still in the early stages of discovery.’’
The incident started as a dispute at the Egg Platter diner on Crooks Avenue at 3 am, according to court records.
Vazquez had just gotten off from her job as a dancer at Sunrise Gentlemen’s Club on Getty Avenue and was eating with two other dancers and a male friend of theirs. Avila and two other officers – all of them off-duty – were at an adjoining booth.
Vazquez has maintained that the officer directed sexual insults towards the woman. Avila has said in a police report filed at the time that he and the other officers were discussing the National Football League lock-out when the women interrupted their conversation.
Eventually, Avila placed Vazquez under arrest, charging her with assaulting him, according to court records. The lawsuit says a grainy video of the police holding cell shows Avila slamming Vazquez to the floor while she was handcuffed to a bench.