Open in App
May need paid subscription
The Bergen Record

Bergen County denies accusations of inmate abuse, but suspends two officers

By Kaitlyn Kanzler,,


The Bergen County Sheriff's Office thoroughly denied accusations of inmate mistreatment after a lawsuit filed by a former inmate last week , but it suspended two officers for 10 days each.

Valmir Xhemajli says he was beaten and pepper-sprayed by sheriff's officers in October 2021 after he refused to wear a straitjacket. The two officers involved were disciplined, but the specifics on why were not clear. The suspensions were for "violations of the agency's standard operating procedures," said spokesperson Keisha McLean of the Sheriff's Office. The office declined to provide details of the suspensions, saying it is a personnel matter that is under appeal and that they were "technical violations of policy."

The suspensions were not due to the officer's striking Xhemajli, McLean said.

The Sheriff's Office statement said it expects the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Xhemajli filed a similar lawsuit against Paterson police officers in 2019. That suit accused officers of handcuffing him to a hospital bed at St. Joseph's University Medical Center and beating him.

Xhemajli's previous lawsuit was settled, said his attorney, Alan Genitempo. Court documents show the suit was dismissed with prejudice in October 2021 after it was "amicably adjusted by and between parties."

"Contrary to Xhemajli’s allegations, a thorough internal affairs investigation, which included review of video footage from two different angles, refutes many of his allegations," the Sheriff's Office said in its statement regarding the recent Bergen lawsuit.

McLean said Xhemajli was instructed to put on a suicide prevention gown and he refused. She said he was pepper-sprayed by an officer after refusing to comply with orders.

"Xhemajli was then physically restrained and decontaminated in the Jail Medical Unit," McLean said. "Xhemajli was not struck in the face, beaten, or left on the ground, bleeding or otherwise."

She said the incident was "closely scrutinized," leading to the suspensions.

"The officers involved are appealing that discipline to the Civil Service Commission, and a hearing in the Office of Administrative Law is scheduled for later this year," McLean said.

Xhemalji allegedly was taken to the hospital the next day for a follow-up examination.

Genitempo said he didn't want to hear that there was no wrongdoing by the Sheriff's Office. He said a tort claims notice filed in December 2021 gave the Sheriff's Office ample opportunity to refute the claim and provide information.

"They didn't provide us with anything," Genitempo said. "They did nothing."

He said there was no reason for Xhemajli to be restrained, because he was not suicidal, and that if there is evidence contrary to the claims, "let's see it."

Bergen County news Ramapo Indian Hills trustees question school board president on ethics charge

Genitempo said he understands that the jail has a difficult job to do but that Xhemajli was "pretty helpless at the hands of that many people."

McLean said two previous lawsuits against the jail had unfounded claims.

She said the claims in the suit filed by a group of advocates looking to have immigration detainees released were never substantiated and that an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found no evidence in regard to the allegations. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a message seeking confirmation.

The lawsuit filed by former corrections officer Cindy Castro was moved to Passaic County. According to a response filed on behalf of the Sheriff's Office, the law enforcement agency denied any wrongdoing and an Internal Affairs investigation did not find evidence of the allegations.

This article originally appeared on Bergen County denies accusations of inmate abuse, but suspends two officers

Expand All
Comments / 0
Add a Comment

Comments / 0