PATERSON (PIX11) — As part of an effort to restore trust between the police department and the community, the city of Paterson announced the termination of police officer Spencer Finch following a disturbing May 26 incident where he’s seen attacking a father distraught about being separated from his children.
The assault, captured on a police body camera released by the mayor’s office, sent shockwaves throughout the community.
The victim is seen on the video in the hallway of a residential building interacting with another officer attempting to calm him down; suddenly Officer Finch walks into the frame and repeatedly punches the man.
Once on the ground in handcuffs, Finch appears to strike the man with full force with his knee.
“It was deplorable what I witnessed,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said at a press conference Monday. ”And intolerable, that’s why we reached this point.”
Citing an investigation conducted by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s office which charged Finch with official misconduct, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, Mayor Sayegh said the city did its due diligence and termination was warranted.
Finch — who has been accused of using excessive force in at least four prior incidents — becomes the first officer in Paterson to be fired based on body camera evidence.
“The officer will be afforded all the due process necessary to him under the law as any individual, and I firmly believe that we will be victorious at the end of this process,” Aymen Aboushi, corporation council for Paterson, said, responding to whether or not the city is prepared for a legal fight.
While advocates applaud the mayor for keeping his word on accountability and transparency when it comes to the police department, they agree there’s still a lot of work to do in Paterson.
Zellie Thomas is with the Black Lives Matter Paterson chapter; according to him, Finch is just one of many officers that need to be weeded out.
“There are other officers on this Paterson Police Department who have excessive force complaints against them, who have lawsuits against them, and we keep them on the force,” Thomas said. “That’s a problem.”
The Paterson Patrol Benevolent Association did not immediately respond to PIX11’s request for comment.
Finch has five days to contest his termination, which is part of the city’s administrative process.