Penns Grove, New Jersey, has a police problem. The most recent issue is the arrest of a police officer for kicking a handcuffed Latino man in the face. George Manganaro, 29, a patrolman with the Penns Grove Police Department for seven years, was charged with aggravated assault, according to the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office. More specifically, the officer was charged for “kicking an individual in the face while handcuffed” after he arrested Xaziel Ramos, 22, in connection with a 911 call, action all caught on video. Ramos, who was on his way home to Hopatcong, Sussex County, from North Carolina, was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for facial abrasions from the assault and hypothermia for exposure to the cold all night. Manganaro, who draws a $61,000 salary, has been suspended, with a review pending.
The dashcam footage of the attack tells the story.
Walter Hudson Sr., chair and founder of the National Awareness Alliance, a civil rights organization, has called for the indictment and firing of Manganaro. “On behalf of the black and Hispanic community, we will not be satisfied until this racist and rogue cop is convicted and sentenced,” Hudson told Atlanta Black Star. However, Hudson does not stop there. Pointing to a longstanding policing problem in this South Jersey borough of around 5,000 people, with a majority Black and Latino population and a poverty rate of 30 percent, the activist wants to see the takeover of the Penns Grove Police Department by the Salem County Prosecutor John Lenahan.
“What continues to happen to Black and Hispanic people in Penns Grove, is an injustice to humanity. Penns Grove Police Department as a whole, particularly, George Manganaro, have a long-standing brutal relationship with the community of Penns Grove,” he said. “There is no standard of good policing set by leadership, being elected or law enforcement.”
In recent years, police brutality and misconduct, and allegations of drug dealing, sexual harassment and even indecent exposure by officers in front of children have plagued this department. Hudson says he found his calling to leadership after the excessive force killing of a Black man, MoShowon Leach, 31, by the Penns Grove police in March 2010. Leach died of blunt neck trauma as officers Raymond Rinnier and Joseph Schultz arrested him and placed him in a choke hold at an apartment complex. Penns Grove settled with Leach’s family for $2 million in a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleged the man was maced and wrestled to the ground, face down, choked, kicked and punched although he gave no resistance. The lawsuit also alleged the officers maced Leach’s aunt when she attempted to intervene. A grand jury refused to indict the officers.
In 2016, patrolman Joseph DiCarolis was arrested for stealing oxycodone and resigned from the force. Later that year, Dominic Rullo was charged with distributing the prescription drug Suboxone, also known as buprenorphine, which is used to treat symptoms of opiate withdrawal symptoms and is listed as a Schedule 3 controlled substance.
In 2017, a former Penns Grove police dispatcher, Amy Gibson, sued the department for sexual harassment. Named in the lawsuit filed in Superior Court are former Penns Grove Chief of Police Gary Doubledee, current Chief of Police John T. Stranahan Sr., police officer Anthony Minguez, Det. Jason Spera and the Borough of Penns Grove Police Department. According to the suit, Gibson used his department’s unisex restroom immediately after Minguez and found a graphic photo of male genitalia hanging in the restroom in plain view. Minguez was also charged with exposing his genitals to two young boys in the restroom of an Applebee’s restaurant. Lenahan declined to indict Minguez, claiming the off-duty officer was exposed for the purposes of urination rather than sexual gratification. Hudson is calling for the officer to be terminated.
That’s a lot of trouble for a 15-member police department. Meanwhile, this very local problem is reflective of a national crisis and is a reminder why some folks are protesting in the streets, or taking a knee at the NFL games. Police violence is seeping into the public conscience, but the killing of the innocent, the assaults and indignities, the harassment and gang activity by agents of the state wearing blue uniforms has not abated. Michael Slager will spend a few decades in prison for shooting Walter Scott in North Charleston, yet in Mesa, Arizona, former Officer Philip Brailsford will not serve a day in prison for killing a prone Daniel Shaver with his AR-15 rifle, all captured on video. More often than not, justice is elusive. Back in Penns Grove — where officers have choked Black men to death, sold drugs, kicked a handcuffed Latino man in the head and more — the shakeup of a police department is in order, and long overdue. “This so-called police department and its police Gestapo are out of control,” Hudson insists.