A former Millville, N.J., police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony charges for using excessive force during arrests involving women, including one who suffered seven broken ribs, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced.
Joseph Dixon, 28, of Millville, agreed to plead guilty to two counts of third-degree aggravated assault in Superior Court in Bridgeton in exchange for a prosecution-recommended sentence of 364 days in county jail and probation. His formal sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 17.
In one arrest, on Feb. 25, 2018, Dixon was trying to handcuff Audra Capps for suspicion of driving under the influence when she turned to face him. The incident was recorded by a police dash-cam video.
“Dixon grabbed the woman around the neck, flipped her over his extended leg, and threw her to the ground,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.
“He then dropped on top of her to handcuff her. Afterward, Dixon ignored the woman’s repeated pleas that he had broken her ribs, that she could not breathe, and that she needed to go to the hospital. Instead, Dixon told her that if she could talk, she could breathe, and he drove her to the police station for breath testing and processing,” state prosecutors said.
“Dixon failed to note that the woman complained of broken ribs in his investigative report, and he indicated in his use-of-force report that no injuries occurred. In fact, the woman suffered seven broken ribs, one of which had to be removed,” state prosecutors said.
A month later, Dixon responded to a shoplifting call involving a juvenile male when the boy’s mother began to argue with the responding officers.
Dixon “grabbed her upper body with both arms, flipped her over, and slammed her down on the floor,” state prosecutors said. Dixon dropped on top of her and then used pepper spray on her while arresting her, despite the presence of dozens of people nearby who were affected by the spray. The woman suffered a bruised hip and burning eyes from the pepper spray.
“When officers use force that has no reasonable relationship to any resistance or threat they face, as Dixon did, they not only injure and traumatize those involved, they do a tremendous disservice to all of their fellow officers who uphold the highest law enforcement standards and work hard to secure the trust of the communities they serve,” Grewal said in a statement.
Under the plea deal, Dixon will be barred from law enforcement or other public employment in New Jersey.
Dixon’s repeated use of force was the subject of a comprehensive investigative report by NJ Advance Media, which created a statewide database of police use of force in New Jersey.
Grewal praised the reporting when he announced in January that the state was creating a system for holding police officers accountable.