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Bridgeton Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Excessive Use of Force Violation



MorganBy: Richard L. Smith 

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said a Bridgeton Police Officer, John Grier III, admitted today to violating an individual's civil rights by using excessive force during an arrest.

Federal officials said Grier, 51, hailing Cedarville pleaded guilty in federal court before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez in Camden to a charge of violating an individual's civil rights.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger underscored the importance of upholding the oath sworn by police officers to protect the civil rights of all community members.

He stated, "Using pepper spray on a handcuffed suspect who posed no threat was an unreasonable use of force that violated the law.

This office will continue to prioritize the protection of the civil rights for all of New Jersey's people."

James E. Dennehy, FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge, emphasized the public's trust in law enforcement and the need to respect the responsibilities that come with taking an oath to serve and protect.

"When we arrest and take someone into custody, we must ensure their safety, as well as our own. We can do a million things right, but one bad action erodes the faith people place in us."

The case revealed that Grier, who had been a Bridgeton police officer since August 2004, knowingly violated an arrestee's civil rights.

On June 18, 2017, Grier, in full uniform, encountered the victim at Riggins Gas Station on West Broad Street in Bridgeton, New Jersey.

The victim had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and was already placed in handcuffs by other officers on the scene, without any resistance or threat.

Despite the victim's restrained condition, Grier sprayed the individual directly in the face with a crowd control-sized can of oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray.

Shockingly, he repeated this act, spraying the victim again while still handcuffed.

At today's plea hearing, Grier acknowledged that his use of OC spray was unnecessary, unreasonable, and constituted an excessive use of force, violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

The violation of civil rights charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.

Sentencing for Grier is scheduled for February 6, 2024.

Officials said this case serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to hold accountable those entrusted with maintaining public safety when they breach the trust placed in them.