TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former Millville police officer was sentenced today in connection with his guilty plea to felony charges related to two separate incidents in which he used excessive force against women during arrests.
Joseph Dixon, 29, of Millville, N.J., was sentenced to two years of probation and 364 days in the county jail by Superior Court Judge Robert Malestein in Cumberland County. The judge suspended the jail sentence on the condition that Dixon must properly complete the term of probation. If he violates probation, he will be required to serve the jail term. Dixon pleaded guilty on Nov. 20, 2019 to two counts of third-degree aggravated assault. He previously resigned from the Millville Police Department and is permanently barred from law enforcement and other public employment in New Jersey.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis prosecuted Dixon for the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), which conducted a comprehensive investigation of Dixon’s use of force record while employed as a police officer in Millville.
In pleading guilty, Dixon admitted that he purposely, knowingly, or recklessly with extreme indifference to the value of human life attempted to cause or caused significant bodily injury to two women by using excessive force when arresting them during separate incidents in 2018. One of the women suffered seven broken ribs.
“This prosecution reflects our resolve to hold officers accountable if they use violent force against civilians without justification,” said Attorney General Grewal. “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.”
“One of the missions of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability is to investigate alleged crimes and civil rights violations by law enforcement officers,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “Nobody is above the law, and if we have sufficient proof that an officer has committed a crime, we will prosecute that officer as we would any other individual. This former officer will rightly carry a felony record for the rest of his life.”
The incidents that led to the charges against Dixon occurred in early 2018. One incident occurred on Feb. 25, 2018, when Dixon arrested a woman for driving while intoxicated on West Main Street in Millville. When the woman repeatedly asked to call her husband and twice turned to face Dixon as he tried to handcuff her, Dixon grabbed the woman around the neck, flipped her over his extended leg, and threw her to the ground. 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. 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.
A month later, on March 24, 2018, Dixon responded to a shoplifting call involving a juvenile male at a local supermarket. During the call, the shoplifter’s mother became argumentative because she could not produce the identification requested for officers to release her child to her custody. Dixon told her that she was under arrest. When the woman backed away from Dixon, he grabbed her upper body with both arms, flipped her over, and slammed her down on the floor. He then dropped on top of her and used pepper spray on her while handcuffing her, despite the immediate presence of dozens of people of varying ages, many of whom reacted to the spray. Dixon took the woman to the police station for processing, but relatives called for an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital as soon as she arrived at the police station. The woman suffered a bruised hip and burning eyes from the pepper spray.
The Attorney General’s Office would like to thank the Prosecutor Jennifer Webb McRae and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office for its assistance in the investigation.
Attorney General Grewal created the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability in September 2018 to combat official misconduct and strengthen public confidence in government institutions and law enforcement. OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report official misconduct and crimes involving government employees.
The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.
Defense Attorney: Andrew Butchko, Esq., Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., Somers Point, N.J.