Thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration police officers around the country have been given carte blanche to protect and serve in efforts to enforce law and order. The current administration and justice department has allayed fears held by police districts around the country that their heavy handed tactics had the full support of Washington, DC… a step back from Obama era policies enacted to protect the civil rights of minority civilians. It appears on the surface that since the rollback of these protections police departments are emboldened to continue on their path to making America safe again to the detriment of the communities they allegedly protect and serve. Such is the case in New Jersey.
29-year-old George Manganaro, a patrolman in New Jersey was recently arrested and charged with aggravated assault for “kicking an individual in the face while handcuffed” after the man’s arrest Thanksgiving morning. Officers on “Turkey Day” were alerted about a burglary at a Carneys Point Township residence when Officer Manganaro arrived on the scene. The story that goes that the victim, 22-year-old Xaziel Ramos, was passing through Penns Grove from North Carolina on his way home for Thanksgiving when he allegedly stopped to commit a robbery. Ramos suffered facial abrasions from the attack and was taken to a hospital. He was also treated for hypothermia at Memorial Hospital of Salem County because he was out all night in the cold according to prosecutors.
According to authorities, Ramos’ visit to the hospital was unrelated to his encounter with police. No further details were provided tying Ramos to the breaking and entering but the subsequent actions taken by police speak for themselves.
The 15-member Penns Grove Police Department has been embroiled in controversy over the last couple of years. The department is currently facing a lawsuit from a former dispatcher who alleges the police chief, the former chief, and two other officers, neither of them Manganaro, sexually harassed her. Anthony Minguez, an officer named in the lawsuit, was later charged with lewdness for allegedly exposing himself to two children in a restaurant restroom last March. Minguez however has not been charged with anything in relation to the harassment case.
The police department also settled a lawsuit recently agreeing to pay $2 million to the family of a man who died after Penns Grove police placed him in a choke hold, according to the New Jersey Law Journal. According to the coroner, MoShowon Leach, 31, died from blunt neck trauma after the officers Maced him, wrestled him to the ground, and kicked and punched him. A grand jury, unsurprisingly, declined to indict the officer in the case but yet the department was on the hook for the payout.
Officer Manganaro is also involved in a lawsuit against the borough after a “scuffle” with community activist Walter Hudson, chairman of the civil rights group National Awareness Alliance. According to the Inquirer:
Hudson, who had organized a demonstration in front of the police station in 2010 to protest the death of Leach, called a news conference Wednesday at the police station to demand action be taken to prevent further police abuse. The arrest of Manganaro is “nothing new to the residents of Penns Grove,” he said. “It is normal practice of rogue behavior towards citizens by the Penns Grove police.”
Hudson admitted to the assault on the officer and was sentenced to probation. According to news reports, Hudson refused to leave a school gym after being asked to vacate the premises by police. Police reports indicated that Hudson pushed a police officer in the tussle at the gym.
Hudson alleges that the scuffle came after Manganaro targeted him with various tickets including speeding, reckless driving, and being on the suspended driving list after he organized the protest for Leach. The tickets were later dismissed in court. He is now suing the police department for harassment.
The current mayor has declined to comment on the case pending the investigation. Mayor John Washington said, “We don’t have all the facts, but we will get to the bottom of it. As mayor of the city I am concerned about everything from both sides, the officer and the person who, as you say, got kicked.”
As for Ramos, he was released from the hospital into the custody of his parents. He is set to face charges of breaking and entering in Municipal Court in January.
The department’s police chief, John Stranahan Sr., was unavailable for comment due to disability.
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