Area woman sues HP Police for its actions during arrest proceedings

An area woman is suing the Highland Park Police Department for unspecified damages in connection with her arrest 18 months ago.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 8, 2015, in state Superior Court in New Brunswick, area woman Brooke Taylor seeks unspecified damages from the Highland Park Police Department for allegedly violating her civil rights by detaining her and subjecting her to a strip search “without warning and without reasonable suspicion” after a robbery on Raritan Avenue on Sept. 10, 2013.

Ms. Taylor also is asking for punitive damages, attorney’s fees and the costs of the lawsuit.

Highland Park Police Department spokesman Capt. Scott Golden declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Ms. Taylor, who was 23 at the time of the incident, was crossing the Albany Street Bridge on her way to work at Barnes & Noble in New Brunswick when she was stopped by police, who claimed that she matched the description of a suspect in a home-invasion robbery that had just occurred in a Raritan Avenue apartment.

The robbery victim told police that she was disturbed in her apartment by an intruder who took anywhere from $40 to $60 and the victim’s cell phone before leaving the apartment. Police found the phone outside the apartment.

Police took the victim to the Albany Street Bridge, where she said she was “100 percent sure” that Ms. Taylor was the intruder, once police asked Ms. Taylor to remove her sunglasses and put her hair in a ponytail. Ms. Taylor had only $1 in her purse.

Based on the victim’s identification, Ms. Taylor was taken to the Police Department and held in a detention cell until police were able to corroborrate her claims that she had been at Park Deli.

While she was detained, her suit alleges, police subjected Ms. Taylor to a strip search and “numerous hours of being kept against her will.”

The suit alleges violations of Ms. Taylor’s civil rights by denying her due process and constitutional guarantees of equal protection, leading her to suffer “extreme pain and suffering,” as well as lost wages, emotional trauma, medical expenses, unspecified disability and impairment, as well as “future pain and suffering” and “loss of enjoyment of life.”

The suit also alleges negligence, in that the police failed to check surveillance tapes that would have corroborated her story sooner; negligent training and hiring, for failing to train officers properly; intentional infliction of emotional distress for a false arrest, imprisonment and a strip search when the officers “knew or should have known she did not commit a crime”; and violating her rights by subjecting her to a strip search that did not meet the Attorney General’s guidelines for strip searches.

The suit calls the strip search “outrageous” and “beyond the norms acceptable to society.”

Ms. Taylor is being represented by Livingston attorney Brian M. Dratch of Franzblau Dratch, P.C. Mr. Dratch did not return repeated calls requesting comment.

The suit, filed Jan. 8 in state Superior Court in New Brunswick, lists the Highland Park Police Department as a defendant, along with seven individual officers: Sgt. Theodore Haas, Detective Donald J. Newton, and officers Jose L. Curbelo, Gary S. Panichella, John A. Sachau, Nicole M. Young and Thomas M. Hammill.

The suit also names a Rutgers University police officer whom it identifies only as “Officer McLoughlin.”



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