A New Jersey police officer who was recently charged with assaulting Black youths has worked for nine different police departments, collecting use-of-force incidents and complaints along the way.
Camden County prosecutors said Officer Ryan Dubiel pepper-sprayed the youths "without provocation" on June 4.
Records and interviews compiled by The New York Times showed that Dubiel has a lengthy history of using force against unarmed people or injuring suspects.
New Jersey officials have vowed to crack down on officers' ability to cycle through multiple police departments while demonstrating substandard policing skills.
A New Jersey police officer who was recently charged with assault after pepper-spraying youths "without provocation" has worked for nine different police departments over his short career, racking up a litany of complaints and use-of-force incidents along the way.
Ryan Dubiel, a 31-year-old officer with the Woodlynne Police Department, has been fired from at least one police department and used force against 16 suspects during a two-year period at a different police department, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing records and interviews with former colleagues.
The officer made national headlines early in June, after he was captured on cellphone video pepper-spraying Black youths. Prosecutors said Dubiel had encountered the teens after receiving a complaint of possible trespassing and loitering. Body camera footage showed that the youths were behaving calmly and non-violently — one was sitting and the others were standing — when Dubiel deployed his pepper spray.
He has since been suspended from his job without pay, and the acting Camden County prosecutor, Jill Mayer, said in a statement that Dubiel's conduct was "not consistent with the State of New Jersey use-of-force policy."
The officer's employment history exemplifies what policing critics have called a lack of oversight and information-sharing between police departments that allows officers to get hired in different cities and towns, even if they have established records of misconduct.
New Jersey officials have vowed to stop allowing substandard police officers to cycle through departments
New Jersey is one of just five states in the country in which police officers' accreditation cannot be revoked over misconduct, according to The Times. In the wake of Dubiel's charges, New Jersey officials have vowed to change that.
"This officer, who has worked for nine different police departments, is a strong example of why we need a statewide licensing program for police officers," New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. "Just as we license doctors, nurses, and lawyers, we must ensure that all officers meet baseline standards of professionalism, and that officers who fail to meet those standards cannot be passed from one police department to another while posing a threat to the public and other officers."
Dubiel did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, and it's unclear if he has a lawyer.
The Times reported that prosecutors are now investigating Dubiel for two other alleged incidents that occurred on the same day — shooting a fleeing robbery suspect and punching a woman with a mental illness who was resisting arrest.
One witness to the latter incident told The Times she saw Dubiel arresting a screaming woman on December 29, punching her in the chest while she lay on the ground with her hands cuffed.
"I went to both the police and the prosecutor because I didn't want it to be swept under the rug," the witness, Kelly Jankowski, told The Times. The newspaper reported that the alleged punching victim didn't file a complaint against Dubiel because she didn't think her allegation would be believed.
The Times reported that Dubiel was assigned to desk duty after the two incidents while the Camden County prosecutor's office investigated. But the police department's public safety director, Edwin Figueroa, sent Dubiel back onto the streets in April, after other officers grew sick with the coronavirus.
Figueroa said he asked Dubiel to re-read the state's use-of-force policy and sign it. He said he also offered Dubiel counseling, but the officer refused.
Dubiel used force in more than a dozen instances during the two years he worked with the Camden police force
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Dubiel was also fired at least once in his career — from the Little Falls Police Department. Officials told The Times he was fired within three months, and was accused of unauthorized absence and an integrity violation by an internal affairs investigation.
He also worked at the Camden Police Department, which has been widely hailed for disbanding and rebuilding its police department in 2013. Dubiel joined the force that very year, and was commended several times, receiving an "Officer of the Week" recognition and Award of Valor, as The Times noted.
But records obtained by The Times showed Dubiel also used force against 16 suspects during his two years at the department. Though those instances may have been justified, one former colleague told the newspaper it was an unusually high average — especially given that at least 13 of those suspects were unarmed, and many were injured during the arrests.
"Dubiel washed out of the system in Camden because of our police reforms, which imposed a more stringent code of conduct and a higher level of oversight," the official overseeing the Camden Police Department, Lou Cappelli Jr., told The Times.
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