Being Disabled May be a Punishable Offense in New Jersey


For the second time in the past three years, the issue of police abuse of disabled people has grabbed the headlines.

The recent publicity about a three year old case in which a young man suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury was severely beaten by police officers because he did not obey their commands quickly enough has been broadcast over television stations as well as the newspapers. About two weeks following that incident, a mentally disabled man, who had never had an involvement with the police in his life, was similarly beaten when he was too slow in responding to a command to button his jacket while standing on a street corner.

Both incidents were videotaped and broadcast nationally.

Sign Up for E-News

On May 29, 2009, Ronnie Holloway was simply walking through his home neighbourhood in Passaic, New Jersey. A surveillance video tape showed Holloway standing outside Lawrence’s Bar and Grill. A police car pulled up and Holloway was asked by a female officer to zip up his sweatshirt. Holloway slowly complied, yet he was subject to a savage beating by Officer John Rios III with fists and a police baton, before being thrown into a police car and taken into custody.

Ronnie Holloway spent the night in a jail cell, with no medical attention paid to his injuries. Worse still, a short list of offenses were fabricated and levied against the disabled adult in order to justify the arrest.

The world would have learned little more about this had it not been discovered that a surveillance video tape from a camera outside Lawrence’s Bar and Grill had recorded the entire incident. Holloway was simply standing on the street corner, committed no evident crime, and did not resist arrest. Clearly, there appeared to be no justification for the policeman’s actions.

Ronnie Holloway did not have a criminal record and was not a threat to society. He was a citizen with a significant disability who became an assault victim. The very people who were sworn to protect him became his oppressors. Perhaps more significant than the beating itself is the action of fabricating charges against Holloway, including intent to purchase drugs and resisting arrest. This, in itself, was a serious criminal action, and the officer who helped to facilitate the fabrication was terminated.

The issue of police abuse of those with mentally disabling conditions came to light, once again, when a similar case resurfaced

On May 16, 2009, New Jersey State Troopers were searching for two burglary suspects and stopped a vehicle which turned out to be the wrong car. Twenty-one-year-old James Bayless was sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle when he was ordered to step out of the car. As a Traumatic Brain Injury patient, his response was delayed and the officer deemed it as much too slow. An eyewitness stated that she saw Bayless, who was now handcuffed, dragged out of the vehicle by two officers, thrown to the ground and punched in the face repeatedly by the officers.

The two cases would have received little scrutiny had they not been videotaped. Legislators, like Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, would like to take action to prevent such events from happening in the future.

Interestingly, a few years ago former Assemblyman Fred Scalera sponsored a bill that would require first responders to be trained to deal with people with mental and behavioural disorders. Often, such individuals have communication deficits that make it difficult to respond to verbal commands. In the case of Bayliss and Holloway, they were punished because of their disabilities.

Tragically, being disabled may be a punishable offense in New Jersey!

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


A Week at the Library of The Chathams Monday, February 19 – Sunday, February 25, 2018


By Galina Natenzon

Friends of the Library are continuing their book collection in preparation for Annual Book Sale.  Kids are off from school on Monday for Presidents’ Day – bring them to the library!  We have plenty for them to do.  For adults, Professor Licklider’s second lecture on North Korea will take place on Tuesday.  The ...

A Week at the Library of The Chathams - Monday, February 5 – Sunday, Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Week at the Library of The Chathams

Monday, February 5 – Sunday, Sunday, February 11, 2018


By Galina Natenzon

Friends of the Library book collection continues.  The tax season is here, and dedicated volunteers are here to help you with you tax returns!

For information about all programs or to sign up, please call the library at 973‑635‑0603 or go to ...

Imagine a Chatham Toboggan Ride from the Top of Fairmount Avenue to Main Street

Did you know….
there was a time when Chatham kids could ice skate from downtown Chatham all the way to Florham Park? And that a toboggan ride could last from the top of Fairmount Avenue down to Main Street and beyond?

Those were the days!

This was back in the early to mid-1900s. The Passaic River meandered through grassy meadows and woods on the north side of Chatham. The marshy ...


February 20, 2018

To the Editor,

I told my daughter I needed to write about gun violence. Know what she told me? “Mom, be sure you’re not too polarizing. People won’t listen.” She’s right. At age eleven she’s figured out that we adults need to be reminded how to speak to one another in order to fix a problem. But I have hope and belief that we can fix that discourse in our ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link:

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!


Mindfulness and Meditation Courses Beginning March 2018

February 20, 2018

Mindfulness and Meditation Courses Beginning March 2018

-Space is limited as classes will be small-

MADISON, NJ – In celebration of the new spring season, come experience and enjoy Mindfulness and Meditation with Wendi L. Dumbroff, MA, LPC. Dumbroff is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Madison, New Jersey, where she specializes in individual, family, ...