In May 2009, a mentally disturbed man, James Bayliss, then 21, was beaten at a traffic stop in Warren County, New Jersey. While the family and other demanded answers, the police said little. Now, a long withheld police video has surfaced that shows troopers severely beating Bayliss who was thrown to the ground and pummeled by multiple officers. Critics are now demanding to know why the film was withheld and why the actions taken by the police was also withheld from the public.
The scoop in this story goes to The Sunday Star-Ledger which first disclosed the State Police video. It was only after the Star-Ledger told the police that it was going public that the police department acknowledged publicly that the officer used excessive force.
The troopers were reportedly Staff Sgt. Richard Wambold Jr. and Trooper Keith Juckett who are shown stopping Bayliss at a blockade set up to catch burglary suspects. Bayliss is seen standing against the car as Wambold frisks him. A few seconds later, Wambold throws him to the ground and starts to pummel him. Witnesses say that the officers then dragged Bayliss across the ground, handcuffed him, and then rammed his head against a tire.
Notably, there has yet to be any disciplinary action taken against the officers. Indeed, absent the newspaper’s action, it is doubtful that anything would have happened at all.
Wamnbold insists that Bayliss attacked him which did not appear in this film. There is only the slight movement shown by Bayliss before he is beaten.
The withholding of such evidence can have a significant impact on families litigating such cases. There is a relatively short statute of limitations in most states — often no more than two years. It is often hard to secure contingency lawyers in such cases, particularly when the officers are unified in their testimony. It also diminishes the public backlash and pressure for action.
Most videos from police dashcams are released in the course of litigation or when demanded through state FOIA laws or other means sued by the media. However, there is no reason why the police should withhold such evidence or why it should withhold information on the discipline (or lack there of) for the officers.
My greatest concern is the lack of action by the police when they have had this video in their possession for over three years. This is the first time that the police have even acknowledged that the troopers used excessive force.