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Paterson Police Officer Indicted After Body-Cam Footage Showed Violent Assault of Suspect

By rlsmetro on
Paterson

Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes announces the Indictment of former Paterson Police Officer Spencer Finch, 45, of Mahwah. 

 A Passaic County Grand Jury has returned an Indictment charging the defendant with one count of second-degree Official Misconduct, one count of second-degree Aggravated Assault, one count of third-degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, one count of third-degree Tampering With Public Records or Information and one count of third-degree Perjury. 

Officials alleged that on May 26, 2021, Paterson Officers arrested the victim and charged him with Terroristic Threats and other offenses. To do so, Officer Finch prepared and submitted an affidavit of probable cause.

The defendant also prepared, signed and submitted a Paterson Police offense report in which the defendant wrote:

-The victim was “out of control.”

- The defendant told the victim he was under arrest for Terroristic Threats.

- The defendant told the victim to put both hands behind his back.

-The victim took an aggressive stance and clenched his fist.

- Following a struggle, the victim was handcuffed “after several minutes.”

- Once handcuffed and seated with his back against the wall, the victim tried to “head-butt” the defendant.

 

However, the body camera video of another Paterson Police Officer and surveillance video from the apartment building where the incident occurred showed:

- The victim was in a hallway. He was agitated, pacing and screaming into a cell phone, but he maintained his distance from the officers.

-The defendant, in full uniform, advanced on the victim. The defendant did not tell the victim he was under arrest, nor did he ask him to put his hands behind his back.

-The defendant struck the victim with an overhead, open-palmed strike to the face.

-Following a struggle, the victim is brought to the ground approximately twenty seconds later. The defendant struck the victim multiple times in the head with a flashlight.

-The victim was handcuffed behind his back approximately thirty-five seconds after being initially struck by the defendant.

Officials said the victim was seated in the hallway with his back against the wall. The defendant then kneed the victim in the face or chest without justification.

Prior to the date of the incident, the Paterson Police Department had prohibited the use of large “C” or “D” cell-type flashlights. This was the type of flashlight the defendant possessed and used to strike the victim multiple times.

 An Arraignment on the Indictment will be scheduled by the Passaic County Superior Court Criminal Division.

Official Misconduct and Aggravated Assault each carry a maximum term of ten (10) years in New Jersey State Prison. Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, Tampering with Public Records or Information and Perjury each carry a maximum term of five (5) years in New Jersey State Prison.

Following the defendant’s arrest, the State filed a motion for pre-trial detention, which the Court denied. At that time, the Defendant was released on pre-trial supervision pending the case's outcome.

Any member of the public who wishes to make a complaint to this office regarding police misconduct of any Passaic County agency may contact the Public Integrity Unit of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office or the tips line at 1-877- 370-PCPO or tips@passaiccountynj.org