Officer Accused in Abuse Case Was Suspended for 90 Days
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 • 4:53pm
PATERSON, NJ – The Paterson police officer who two years ago allegedly slammed a handcuffed woman to the floor of a city holding cell was suspended for 90 days without pay as a result of the incident, which was captured on videotape, municipal officials said.
But Councilman William McKoy, chairman of the public safety committee, said in an interview on Tuesday that the 90-day punishment against Officer Michael Avila may have been too lenient. McKoy is asking for Public Safety Director Glenn Brown and acting Police Chief William Fraher to meet with the City Council in closed session to review the videotape of the incident and to provide an explanation of what it shows.
McKoy also said he was disturbed that he only learned of the incident through a story on News 12 Friday night, in a report by “Kane in Your Corner”, instead of being officially notified about it by the city police department.
“What I’ve seen looks very troubling,’’ McKoy said. “Of course, until I’ve seen all of the tape, I can’t draw any definite conclusions.’’
“It’s my understanding that the councilman wants to set up a meeting,’’ said Brown. “We’ll discuss what we can. Because it’s a personnel matter, there’s a limited amount of information that can be discussed regarding the situation. It wouldn’t be prudent to discuss it now because it’s a matter of litigation.’’
The woman, Linette Vazquez, has retained a lawyer and is preparing to sue the city, according to the News 12 report. The case already has been heard by a grand jury and there was no indictment against Avila, the News 12 report said.
McKoy said the city needed to implement procedures so that the city council is informed of such incidents, especially when they could result in lawsuits against Paterson. In the past two years, the city has paid out more than $1.2 million to settle lawsuits alleging abuse by Paterson police officers.
Brown said the case had been investigated by the police department’s Internal Affairs office. Brown said he was involved in the disciplinary hearing against Avila, but not the initial investigation.
The News 12 report said Avila was off-duty in March 2011 when he and another officer, who was not named, got into a dispute with Vazquez and co-workers from the Sunrise Gentleman’s Club while they were having breakfast the Egg Platter on Crooks Avenue. The story also said Avila filed assault charges against Vazquez, saying she scratched him.
When asked why Avila was in the holding cell while off-duty, Brown said that it is standard operating procedure for an officer who files charges against someone to be in that area. “A police officer is never really off-duty,’’ Brown said.