West New York settles police brutality case with photographer for $50k


The Town of West New York settled a police brutality case back in July for $50,000, a scenario where a photographer alleged police punched and kicked him after he refused to show identification, also deleting video evidence of the incident from his cell phone. West New York police

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

In a federal lawsuit filed on January 7, 2015, Rene Berdugo, a photography student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, alleged he was beaten by West New York police back on April 27, 2013 after refusing to show them identification.

According to the suit, Berdugo was taking photos of a bodega near the intersection of 62nd and Monroe Streets when police officers, including at least Marco Barrera and Hector Rodriguez, asked him for ID.

Berdugo questioned why he had to show ID and began recording the incident on his cell phone as he backed into the bodega. He claims he was then assaulted, getting punched and kicked multiple times, with the video being deleted off of his cell phone.

He also alleges, through the suit, that a chain and about $40 were taken from him and never returned by authorities.

The suit alleges that the incident was still caught on surveillance cameras inside the bodega and police were accused of using excessive force, failure to intervene, 1st Amendment retaliation, violation of New Jersey civil rights, among many other things.

Former Police Director Michael Indri was also named in the suit, linked to counts in the suit related to supervisory liability and policy/inadequate training.

While the $50,000 settlement agreement is dated May 20, 2016, the matter was not approved by the West New York Board of Commissioners until July 14 at a special meeting, according to a copy the agenda.

This matter was overshadowed by Town Attorney Donald Scarinci giving a presentation slamming the 2013 report by the state Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) accusing Mayor Felix Roque of meddling in the school district, as well as the approval of $1.2 million settlement of a class action lawsuit.

The town, and therefore the police department, did not admitted to any wrongdoing or liability, having done so “solely for the purpose of economic expediency.”

The settlement was brought to light over the weekend by Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project John Paff, who posted the lawsuit and settlement documents here.

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