The City of Jersey City’s $925,000 recent settlement for a man who got his jaw broken from a punch by a police officer during a dispute about an unleashed dog shows the need for a civilian complaint review board, Ward E Councilman James Solomon said.
“The council’s being asked to authorize a nearly $1 million settlement for misconduct when an officer broke the jaw of a civilian. Very concerning and I think it highlights we still need independent oversight on the police force,” Solomon said in an Instagram live video prior to Thursday’s council meeting.
“I know it’s not as much in the news as it was a year or two ago, but the state needs to pass the civilian complaint review board [bill], independent oversight to make sure investigations and discipline occur from civilians, not fellow law enforcement, and this is another example of taxpayer costs to that.”
At the same meeting where the council approved the affordable housing overlay, they unanimously (9-0) voted in favor of a $925,000 settlement for Jonathan Sanders to settle a federal lawsuit that said he’d suffered facial fractures and a broken jaw on May 5th, 2017.
The resolution said that the settlement would be less costly than if the city went to trial.
” … The Corporation Counsel has recommended a settlement to pay the Plaintiff the total sum of $925,000 because the risks and costs involved with conducting a trial includes the possibly of a verdict that includes compensatory damages and counsel fees exceeding the settlement amount.”
The measure also said that the Jersey City Insurance Fund Commission would cover the cost of the settlement.
Sanders, through his attorney Joel Silberman, alleged that Police Officer Morton Otundo, Francisco Montero, John Saleh and Albert Bauer, assaulted him on the aforementioned date over five years ago over a dispute about his off leash dog.
Surveillance footage published by The Jersey Journal showed Otundo knocking Sanders to the ground with a punch and then holding him on the ground for a couple minutes until the video ends. Otundo passed away last July in a motorcycle accident.
This was the second six-figure police settlement approved by the council over a 2017 police brutality incident in the past month.
The governing body okayed a $292,000 settlement for a man hit by a police sergeant’s SUV during a police chase on August 6th, 2017 at their September 21st meeting.
Solomon, along with Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley, put up a resolution in April 2021 supporting the creation of a CCRB, a bill where the primary sponsor was Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31).
The bill has not been reintroduced during the current legislative session.