Maplewood Police and Fire

CHS Grad & Maplewood Township Reach Settlement on Police Brutality Civil Suit

Robert Tarver and Jason McDougall in 2017

A recent graduate of Columbia High School and the Township of Maplewood have reached a settlement in a civil suit alleging police brutality, according to the Black Parents Workshop.

Walter Fields of the BPW told Village Green that the Township and Jason McDougall had reached a “monetary settlement, the details of which can’t be disclosed.” McDougall originally sought financial damages in excess of $1 million and punitive damages.

Maplewood Township, former Police Chief Robert Cimino and individual police officers were served with a civil lawsuit by the family of Jason McDougall in October 2017. McDougall said he was attacked in a racially motivated assault on the night of July 5, 2016, when he was “marched out of town,” then “body slammed, pepper sprayed and kicked in the head by officers” when he resisted. Video of McDougall being kicked by officers was finally released after almost one year of Open Public Records Act — or OPRA — requests by Village Green and community activists such as Black Parents Workshop.

The suit was filed by Cynthia McDougall on behalf of her son, who was 17 at the time of the suit and 16 at the time of the incident. McDougall sought compensatory and punitive damages, according Tarver.

Aside from excessive force, the lawsuit alleged “serious issues of constitutional violations” against McDougall and other youth by police officers from Maplewood, South Orange and Irvington departments, who “restricted [the teens’] right to go home and to move freely” that night, the attorney said. Instead, officers can be heard and seen directing the teens into the adjacent town of Irvington.

“It was a nightmare of a night for policing” in Maplewood, said Tarver in a phone interview with Village Green in 2017.

In a statement sent to the media yesterday, Fields, on behalf of Black Parents Workshop, said that much had changed in Maplewood since the July 2016 incident, including the removal and retirement of the former police chief and a police captain, as well as the formation of a Community Board on Police. Fields wrote: “Since the July 2016 incident we have had multiple conversations with the new leadership of the Maplewood Police Department and have been encouraged by its transparency and willingness to engage in honest and straightforward conversations regarding improving policing in our community. Our advocacy on disciplinary practices in our school district and leadership on revising the student Code of Conduct is directly tied to our efforts to sever the pathway of Black youth to the criminal justice system. We look forward to those discussions continuing as we work to create a welcoming environment in our community for children of color.”

Village Green reached out to members of the Maplewood Township Committee for comment on the settlement. Mayor Vic DeLuca replied, “As a general rule we do not comment on matters of litigation involving the Township of Maplewood. “

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