Township settles suit with teen reportedly beaten by police

File Photo
Black Parents Workshop Chairman Walter Fields, left, and Maplewood’s Jason McDougall announce in 2017 that McDougall is suing the town for how he was treated by police on the night of July 5, 2016.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood teenager Jason McDougall — whose family sued the Maplewood Police Department for his alleged mistreatment on July 5, 2016, following the town’s Independence Day fireworks display — reached a settlement with the town Feb. 20, according to an order by U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey Judge Kevin McNulty.

According to the complaint filed in the lawsuit, police kicked, punched and pepper-sprayed McDougall, who was 16 at the time and 17 when the suit was filed in 2017. The complaint says officers taunted a temporarily blinded McDougall and shouted racial slurs at him, before arresting him and beating him until he was unconscious.

The Maplewood Police Department faced a great deal of scrutiny and public outrage in 2017, when video and documentation of the police’s actions on July 5, 2016, surfaced. Reports, as well as a study by an independent consulting firm, showed that members of the department used excessive force in dealing with rowdy teenagers and attempted to herd the teenagers, most of whom were black, to Irvington, despite the teens not being from that township. Since then, Maplewood has created a community review board for police, among other changes; Robert Cimino, who was police chief in 2016, left the department under great pressure.

The township declined to comment on the settlement. “As a general rule we do not comment on matters of litigation involving the Township of Maplewood,” township administrator Sonia Alves-Viveiros told the News-Record.

But McDougall and his supporters, including Black Parents Workshop Chairman Walter Fields, are pleased with the outcome.

“We are pleased to learn that a modicum of justice has been received by Mr. McDougall, a young person from our community, for the treatment he received on July 5, 2016. Nothing can compensate for the indignities Jason suffered on that night, in his own community,” Fields said in a press release. “We stood by this young man from the beginning because we believed then, and do now, that black youth in our community deserve to be treated with respect and afforded the courtesies extended to any citizen. We are encouraged that the new leadership of the Maplewood Police Department will continue to make efforts to reform police practices in the community.”

Fields declined to tell the News-Record how much the settlement was for, as it is a sealed settlement and terms cannot be disclosed.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected as it originally stated that Jimmy DeVaul was police chief in 2016. This was an error. Chief DeVaul took over after Robert Cimino left; Cimino was police chief in 2016.