In June 2009, Passaic County Police Officer Joseph Rios, III, was suspended from duty without pay after he was caught on video beating an unarmed man on a street corner. The video, which has been shown on the internet and television, showed Officer Rios repeatedly striking the man with a nightstick and throwing him against the hood of a car. Recently, a Superior Court Judge acquitted Rios of police brutality charges and ordered he be reinstated as an active officer with back pay. Rios has applied for reinstatement and is discussing the issue of back pay with city officials.
When Rios was suspended on the brutality charges, he was earning $97,000 a year. At this point, two years later, he is entitled him to back pay of almost $200,000. During his suspension, Rios also received unemployment insurance benefits.
While there has been public opposition from City activists, the City of Passaic does not oppose reinstating Rios back to his position. However, the incident, which made national news, has been very costly for the City. Passaic is currently in a budget crisis and planning to lay off city employees. Last month layoff notices were sent to 25 municipal employees and 20 city firefighters. The $200,000 that Rios is entitled to receive in back pay will come straight from the city. Additionally, Passaic paid the victim of the incident $350,000 in settlement of a civil lawsuit.
It is clear why residents of Passaic would be upset over reinstating Officer Rios. The beating cost the city nearly half a million dollars, which during a budget crisis, could have been put towards much better use.