After a number of Black leaders called for the termination of a police officer charged with an unprovoked attack on a man, mayor Andre Sayegh on Wednesday afternoon announced the city has begun the termination process.
Police officer Spencer Finch, 44, of Mahwah, has been served with papers seeking his termination, according to the mayor.
“Two and a half years ago, I announced my tools for trust and the primary tool was body cameras. After fighting for officers to be equipped with body cameras, today I am taking decisive action based on deplorable footage captured by a body camera. Officer Finch has been served papers seeking his termination. That type of behavior is not tolerated in our department,” said Sayegh.
It’s not clear whether Sayegh will succeed in terminating Finch, who has been charged with official misconduct, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and tampering with public records or information, prior to a court conviction. Police officers are usually terminated after a conviction.
Finch, who has been on the force for almost 18 years, is likely to be given a hearing and can appeal adverse employment actions taken by the city to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. Finch has been placed on unpaid suspension which ends in 30 days. He is then allowed to return to work on modified duty and collect a paycheck.
Hours before the mayor’s announcement, 40 community organizations, including Black Lives Matter Paterson, called for Finch’s termination.
“Community leaders and residents of Black and Brown communities have not only had to deal with trauma that comes with experiencing and witnessing police violence, they also have to constantly deal with the trauma of witnessing those that do harm not being held accountable,” read a statement issued by the 40 organizations. “Allowing officers who harm or violate the rights of residents to remain employed does not keep the community safe. Allowing officers with multiple excessive force complaints to remain on the force does not keep the community safe. Placing officers on paid administrative leave while under investigation does not keep the community safe.”
They also called for policy changes that would end paid administrative leave for officers under investigation.
Charges against Finch initially did not trigger a backlash, but the release of a video of his alleged conduct shocked residents of Paterson. He is seen in the video viciously attacking the victim even after he is handcuffed.
Finch is the 11th police officer charged with crimes in Paterson over the past three years.