WATCH: New Jersey Cops Body Cams Were Off During Teen’s Bloody, Violent Arrest

Carteret Police officer Joseph Reiman appears in Judge Joseph Paone’s courtroom on charges of official misconduct at Middlesex County Municipal Court in New Brunswick on Friday, February 9, 2018.

None of the officers involved in last year’s violent arrest, in which one Carteret cop faces criminal charges, switched on their body-worn cameras during a struggle that left a 16-year-old bloodied and bruised.

The lack of video from the other officers creates a nearly 2-minute gap in the encounter and violated the New Jersey Attorney General’s directive for body cameras, which experts say was specifically crafted to limit situations where there’s a dispute over what happened during an officer’s encounter with a citizen.

NJ Advance Media reviewed the final police video from the encounter, released last week through a public records request, and more than a dozen other previously obtained videos to find the gap of time — a period that will likely become a contentious issue in the criminal and civil cases against Officer Joseph Reiman, according to experts.

The borough’s police director, Kenneth Lebrato, declined to comment beyond providing a copy of the local guidance on body-worn cameras, which appears to be similar, if not identical, to the state’s directive.

State and local guidelines require body-worn cameras to be activated when an “officer is responding to a call for service and is at or near the location to which the officer has been dispatched.” Officers must announce, document and report to a supervisor when a camera is deactivated and should reactivate it when it is “safe and practicable to do so,” according to the directives.

“Things don’t look good,” one officer says on the police video in the hours after the May 2017 arrest in Carteret that has led to criminal charges.

According to police videos reviewed by NJ Advance Media, the incident started just after 12:30 on the morning of May 31, 2017, when Reiman tried to pull over a sedan, which was driven by an unlicensed teen.

“Anyone near? I got a car taking off on me … he’s going down toward Bergen,” the officer can be heard saying over the radio in his brother’s cruiser.

Officer Charles Reiman, the middle Reiman brother, starts speeding to the scene as the department tries to get an exact location of the crash, according to a recording from his car.

A dashboard camera from Joseph Reiman’s police car shows the brief police chase and captures the image of the officer as he punches the teen for more than a minute. But the two fall out of view and what happens next could not be made out in the blurry nighttime video.

Charles Reiman pulls up to the scene about 90 seconds after getting the call and finds his brother and the teen on the ground just feet from where the teen crashed his parent’s car into a suspension wire, a dashboard recording shows.

The officer didn’t activate his body worn camera for almost two minutes. He began recording as the officers read the teen his rights and put him in the cruiser to take him to police headquarters, according to recordings released by the borough.

In that time, two other officers who assisted in the arrest — Officer Antonio Dominguez and special law enforcement officer Kevin Horn — arrived on scene. Dominguez did not turn on his device, and Horn doesn’t appear to be wearing a camera, according to a review of police videos.

The department previously announced it had equipped all its officers with the technology.

Another officer, who was not involved in the arrest but responded to the scene, turned on her body camera after approaching the scene 51 seconds before Charles Reiman activated his device.

“Does he need to go to the hospital?” she asks.

When the 16-year-old and Charles Reiman get to the police station, the teen tells the officer he’s having trouble breathing. Reiman responds, saying an ambulance is on the way.

In another police video, which captured other Carteret officers discussing the encounter in the hours that followed, one officer remarked that probably none of the officers had their body cameras on but the department’s administration would cover for them.

Officer Joseph Reiman, the brother of longtime mayor Daniel Reiman, has since been indicted on a charge of assault and multiple counts of official misconduct, including failing to turn on his body camera in the arrest.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has said the dashcam corroborated the teen’s account of the encounter. Reiman’s attorney has argued the teen’s injuries were the result of the car crash, but since the car was destroyed, he was unable to inspect the wreck.

Lee Vartan — a former first assistant to the New Jersey Attorney General, who was in the state office when the guideline was drafted and implemented — said the statewide policy was rolled out in 2015 to create uniform rules as to when to turn on body cameras.

Vartan said it was an important policy to protect officers against baseless accusations in the majority of cases but, also, in the 1 percent of instances where there is potential wrongdoing to provide objective evidence to appease the community.

“It benefits all parties,” he said. “Now, we have subjective evidence applied on both sides to battle what happened.”

“These are the thing the prosecution will latch on to,” said Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and retired Newark police captain, referring to the gap in time.

Shane said, while similar lapses in policing often come up when a criminal case goes to trial, it creates an uphill battle for the defense, which now has to create a narrative for the missing time.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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