Camden has reported police misconduct and dropped charges against 185 defendants in this regard. The revelation has come following a year-long investigation that focused on a group of officers who had been assigned to trouble-shoot in high crime areas.
The police officers were part of the so-called supplemental squad that was assigned to patrol high drug-trafficking areas. Kevin Parry, former Camden police officer, admitted yesterday that he had played a role in a rogue operation in which about hundreds of drug cases had been wrongly registered.
He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge involving such cases. Thereafter, charges in 185 drug cases have been dismissed or overturned, thus leading to the release of dozens of defendants, most of whom were low-level drug dealers or users. Their release came as a surprise to many of them, who did not even know why their convictions had been vacated.
When they were interviewed, they claimed they had been falsely accused and assaulted by officers, who will now be interrogated for corruption.
29-year-old Kevin Parry pleaded guilty the in US District Court, admitting having stolen drugs and money along with other officers after conducting illegal searches and arresting illegally. According to Kevin, they hid the stolen drugs at various locations to be used in carrying out rogue operation.
Though the federal authorities have declined to comment about the ongoing investigation, yesterday, US attorney for New Jersey Paul J. Fishman, in a statement released from his office, said, “The actions described in today’s guilty plea are reprehensible. We couldn’t say with certainty which cases were grounded in proper, legal police work, and which were not. As a result, we had no choice but to dismiss all cases closely associated with these police officers.
The interests of justice required that we dismiss the charges or vacate the convictions and not pursue a retrial.” However, he acknowledged that the entire evidence was not fabricated and that there was some truth in it. He mentioned that those freed had to be liberated as they had been arrested on account of tainted evidence.
Jason Stetser, Antonio Figueroa, and Robert Bayard are the three other officers who have been suspended without pay, though the federal investigators have declined to comment on whether they were among the four officers linked to the rogue operation. Court papers did not identify the four officers by name. One was identified as a supervisor of the unit that is formally known as the Special Operations Division within the department’s Fourth Platoon.
John Williamson, president of Camden Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, was dismayed after the revelation, who said, “Just because one person pled guilty, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody is guilty. It’s a sad day in the city of Camden. Somebody pleading guilty on something like that reflects negatively on everybody.”
During yesterday’s hearing, Parry acknowledged having conducted a rogue operation, lodged a fake report to justify the search, and wrongly charged Ron Mills with fleeing, as actually, he had been asked to leave, dealing in drugs, and carrying a sawed-off shotgun. Now Mills intends to file intent.
Mills Attorney Kenneth Aita reportedly said, “The bottom line is, these guys were out there falsifying evidence and denying people their constitutional rights. So they should step up and pay these people.”
Among many other people like Mills, there was Rolax as well, whose lawyer Len Baker reportedly said that his client had spent 20 months in prison without being guilty of any crime, adding, “With 20 months in prison for something you didn’t do, what’s it worth? It’s hard to put a figure on such a horrendous thing, but the courts will have to make that determination.”
The Camden corruption scandal has hit the police department hard. It is likely to have a huge impact on the Prosecutor’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office, having oversight powers over Camden police.
Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson said that Parry – who has pleaded guilty for having planted and traded drugs for securing information from prostitutes and issued threats to arrest those unwilling to cooperate in their illegal acts – was part of a “very small group of criminals with badges.”
Parry could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released after depositing $100,000 as bail. He will no longer be seen in the shoes of a police officer.