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Acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick, speaks during a news conference in Camden, N.J., Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. Authorities on Wednesday announced civil rights and hate crime charges against Frank Nucera.

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Editor's note: This story contains explicit language.

CAMDEN - A former South Jersey police chief has been charged with federal hate crimes and violating the civil rights of an African-American suspect during an arrest, acting on what another law enforcement official called "senseless and bigoted hatred."

Frank Nucera Jr., a former Bordentown Township police chief, assaulted the handcuffed 18-year-old during a September 2016 arrest, slamming his head against a doorjamb and causing injuries, federal authorities say.

William Fitzpatrick, the acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said the behavior was part of a pattern for Nucera, who was recorded secretly by a fellow officer over a nearly one-year period.

"The tone in which (Nucera) conducted himself and in what's charged is one of the most disturbing and disgusting events I've seen in over 20 years in law enforcement," Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. "The people who are most disgusted by it are members of the New Jersey law enforcement community, because this defendant made their jobs much harder. 

"That's the legacy a bad cop leaves for the rest of the law enforcement community."

Fitzpatrick noted "this is a crime that was identified by the Bordentown Township Police Department, by officers in that police department who saw what was going on, knew it was wrong, had enough, and called the FBI."

Among other allegations, a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Camden says Nucera "ordered the racially discriminatory use of police dogs to intimidate African Americans," including at high school basketball games.

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The complaint asserts Nucera acted out of "intense racial animus," citing his use of multiple slurs for black people.

"These niggers are like ISIS, they have no value," the chief allegedly said after the 2015 arrest of a black suspect accused of slashing a police vehicle's tires.

"They should line them all up and mow 'em all down," Nucera said, according to the complaint. "I'd like to be on the firing squad, I could do it."

The complaint says a police department member, identified only as Officer 1, "surreptitiously" recorded Nucera's comments "because he was increasingly alarmed by (Nucera's) racist remarks and hostilities toward African Americans."

Nucera, 60, retired from his $149,000-a-year post earlier this year after federal authorities told the state Attorney General's Office of a pending investigation into his alleged actions, says the complaint.

The Bordentown resident, who was arrested Wednesday morning, also resigned from his position as township administrator.

At a hearing Wednesday afternoon in federal court, Nucera was granted release on $500,000 unsecured bond. He was ordered to surrender to authorities any travel documents as well as all firearms and ammunition in his home.

Nucera, his hands cuffed and shackled in front of him, answered questions from Judge Ann Marie Donio about his understanding of the charges against him and the conditions of his release, stoically, saying simply, "Yes, Your Honor," and "I do."

He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of the two charges against him.

Bordentown Mayor Steve Benowitz called Nucera's alleged actions "abhorrent" and said the township "fully supports the U.S. Attorney in this process."

"It is important to note that these charges began from a self-reported complaint within the township police department," the mayor said. "The township has moved forward with new leadership that promotes community, inclusion and equality."

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina also asserted "the charges most definitely do not reflect the ideals of the law enforcement community."

"It is not a reflection of the culture of the Bordentown Township Police Department, its current leadership or the dedicated officers on the force," the prosecutor said.

Nucera allegedly assaulted the 18-year-old as the suspect was being escorted from the Ramada Bordentown.

The complaint says two officers responded when a manager reported the 18-year-old and a 16-year-old girl had failed to pay for a room and had used the pool at the Route 206 hotel.

Additional officers, including Nucera, arrived after the teens resisted arrest.

The 18-year-old was being led to a stairwell when he stopped walking and began shouting at the officers.

"He was not kicking or struggling," the complaint notes. It says an officer had placed his hand on the suspect's back to push him forward when Nucera approached from behind, grabbed the teen's head and pushed it into a metal doorjamb separating the hallway from the stairwell.

One officer at the scene heard the suspect's head make "a loud thud as it hit the doorjamb," the complaint says.

Another described the blow as "significant," but did not report the use of force "even though he viewed it as excessive because he was afraid of retaliation (from Nucera)."

In a recorded conversation at the police station after the arrest, Nucera said "it would have been nice" if a K9 unit had come to the hotel.

"That dog, that dog will stop anything right then and there, I'm telling you," said the chief, who interspersed his remarks with "dog noises" according to the complaint.

"You'd have seen two fucking niggers stop dead in their tracks. I love when they do that. I just love that," the chief allegedly said, according to the complaint.

About three months later, the complaint adds, Nucera was recorded as he attempted to defend the use of force at the hotel "by arguing that numerous officers had to respond to the call 'cause of six unruly fucking niggers.'"

"Chief Nucera harbored an intense, senseless, irrational and bigoted view toward African Americans," Fitzpatrick said, adding that the chief assaulted an already-restrained and subdued suspect "for no reason other than what he was driven by, at least in part: his racial hate."

Phaedra Trethan: @CP_Phaedra; (856) 486-2417; ptrethan@gannettnj.com

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