Police Abuse

15 Internal Affairs Investigations in Two Years and Officer Sterling Wheaten Is Still Employed


K9Officer Sterling Wheaten

Sterling Wheaten, a K9 handler for the Atlantic City, New Jersey, Police Department, has a special talent for making unpleasant waves without consequences—so far. Only five years on the job, and he's been named in half-a-dozen lawsuits, and investigated (but "exonerated") repeatedly by Internal Affairs. Now, just months after siccing his dog on a man who was already lying on his face on the ground after being pounded by other police officers (see the image at right), he's accused of jumping and arresting a woman because she videorecorded him roughing up her brother.

From Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia:

[Janine] Costantino says Wheaten arrested her brother after he got into an altercation with another patron.

"Wheaten had my brother in a headlock and his arms were limp and his legs were weak," Costantino said. "I screamed out that it was police brutality and that I was videotaping it all."
That's when she claims Wheaten turned on her.

"He was running at me and he says, 'Give me the phone you b**h,'" she said. "He grabbed my bun and he was slamming my forehead into the floor."

Wheaten then arrested Costantino but court records show the charges against her were later dropped. Costantino says she'll never forget what one officer told her the night of the incident.

"He's like, 'Oh, that's your first mistake,'" she said. "You shouldn't be videotaping police officers."

Wheaten is one of six officers under investigation for using excessive force against 20-year-old David Connor Castellani. Castellani had been ejected from a casino for being under age. Surveillance video of the incident (see below) shows him mouthing off at the cops as he walked away. Apparently wounded in their pride, the cops rushed him (he was across the street) and laid into him with fists, feet, and batons. Late-arriver Wheaten let his dog do the work after Castellani was down.

From Wallace McKelvey at pressofAtlanticCity:

Atlantic City officials and activists called for increased scrutiny Tuesday as more allegations of excessive force surfaced about one of six police officers recorded on video allegedly beating a 20-year-old Linwood man this summer.

David Connor Castellani filed a lawsuit against the city, its police department and six officers Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Camden.

On June 15, Castellani was removed from the Tropicana Casino and Resort. A short time later, at 3:10 a.m., Tropicana surveillance video obtained via subpoena showed him being tackled by police, with a K-9 released on him. Castellani's injuries required 200 stitches and ongoing physical therapy, family members say. …

At least six other lawsuits filed in the last three years allege that Sterling Wheaten, the K-9 officer seen in the video, abused his power during the course of arrests. Wheaten graduated from the Atlantic County Police K-9 Academy this May. Tracy Riley, his attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. One of the lawsuits was dismissed and another settled out of court.

That article details the six lawsuits naming Wheaten and predating the Castellani lawsuit, alleging such acts as punching, beating, and throwing people down stairs. One plaintiff also claims that Wheaten attacked him with a police dog.

The Comcast report refers to "an internal police report which shows that Atlantic City Police internal affairs investigated Wheaten 15 times between 2008 and 2010 for allegations of misconduct, some of those allegations being excessive force. Each time however, the department concluded Wheaten did nothing wrong or that there was not enough evidence to clearly prove he did something wrong."

McKelvey says there are "21 complaints against Wheaten over a three-year period" and that complainants included then-Chief John Mooney and Deputy Chief Henry White. White alleged excessive force and Mooney complained of "simple assault and standard of conduct."

The former police chief and the deputy chief complained about Wheaten and he's still on the job? You have to wonder just what kind of photos he has filed away. And how long the people of Atlantic City will have to tolerate him and his buddies.

Update: Costantino's phone is MIA, along with her video. According to a pressofAtlanticCity report:

"Wheaten stood up and handed the phone to a smaller man in a plaid shirt and said, 'you got this?'," the suit reads. "To which the man in the plaid shirt said in sum and substance, 'yah, I'll take care of it. Don't worry'."

That man, also unidentified in the suit, allegedly put the phone in his pocket and walked away. The phone was never recovered after the arrest.

So we'll have to make do with video of the Castellani incident.

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  1. Castellani is a lucky guy. Contempt of Cop is a capital offense in most cases.

  2. Somebody is going to need to see if Nucky Thompson will do something about this. Unfortunately, Eli isn’t Chief of Police any more.

    1. Eli was the Sheriff. Get it right. GOD!

      1. They all look the same to me.

    2. Sorry, he’d need to beat his wife into a miscarriage for Nucky to care. Nucky’s got a softspot for pregnant women and babies.

      1. Not any more; now he seems to be into trashy plump Southern chicks.

        1. Patricia Arquette’s boobs deserve their own credit, they get more screen time than her character does.

          But I will say this season is the best since season 1, I’d even say it’s the best show on TV right now.

          1. It’s a great show, and I enjoy every episode, but the show is weirdly schizophrenic. Every season it’s completely new characters and plot directions. Think about how completely different the show is from season 1. Think of how many important characters are dead or gone, and how many new characters there are.

            I’m not saying this is bad, it’s just somewhat unusual for a show like this.

    3. Do sheriffs and police departments fight like gangs? I’ve always wondered about that. For instance, say a deputy lives in the city. When he drives home, does he sometimes get beat up by city cops?

      1. No. Sheriffs are usually county based, whereas police departments are usually city/town based. A Sheriff’s deputy would have jurisdiction in the whole county, whereas the police would have jurisdiction in their locality only. Sort of like how state cops have jurisdiction in the whole state.

        So the LA County Sheriff’s office has jurisdiction in LA, even though so does the LAPD. But the LAPD have no jurisdiction in the rest of LA County outside of LA.

        1. So sheriffs can beat up cops in the county, but the cops can’t beat up the sheriffs anywhere?

          1. Sure, ProL, whatever you say.

            1. I get that state police can beat up any other cop in the state, except the FBI, but I’m unclear still on who gets to beat up who in the municipalities. If you’re right, what’s the distinction in jurisdictional authority within the city limits between cop and sheriff?

              1. All about IGAs man. Each political subdivision is different. In CO home rule affects IGAs for many things…we even have a PD that is actually contract SDs. Hilarity ensues when it comes time to pay and the city is broke.

                1. Where do meter maids come into this hierarchy? I mean, they control all the nondrug income, right?

                  1. code enforcement has got to be the most pathetic and vile of positions. The people who work those jobs are bullies but not even cool bullies. They are dumb, angry, and incompetent slugs that have found an outlet for their impotent rage. I wish nothing but unemployment for every last one. HOA presidents rank higher than code enforcement…to quote Walter, “at least it’s an ethos”.

                    1. I have to submit paint colors to my HOA. Only prescribed colors and combinations are permitted. And you have to put the colors on your garage door for approval, which means buying paint you don’t know that you can use and waiting in quiet desperation.

                    2. Isn’t that what samples are for?

                    3. Why the hell do you live there?

      2. Yes. Even within the same department. There was a brawl at the LASD Christmas party between 2 factions of deputies:

      3. Yes. Sometimes even within the same department:

        A brawl at the LASD Christmas party involving 2 different factions…

        1. Dammit. First post didn’t work from my phone…

          1. evidence says otherwise.

            1. You’re not supposed to post at 3:00 PM ET.

  3. What happened to Costantino’s video?

    1. Body Cameras could be a solution to this BS.

      Park City, UT police are now wearing them along with dashcams.

      “Police in Park City get new body cameras”

  4. Gives a whole new meaning to a “sterling reputation”, doesn’t it? This guy needs to be fired, charged & thrown in jail, where hopefully he will develop a little humility.

    1. Fuck that. I hope some gangbanger shoots him in the fucking head.

      1. i rather seem him get dragged away tortured and raped than mamed and let to live for the rest of his life as a useless cripple

        that seems more suiting

        1. Like a cop is ever going to end up in general population in jail or prison.

          1. i was saying that i hope and would enjoy watching a group of people like some gang bangers grab him in public

  5. …and nothing else happens.

  6. “I screamed out that it was police brutality and that I was videotaping it all.”

    Telling the cop she was videotaping was her first mistake.

    1. “Please beat me like you’re beating my brother!”

  7. Brutal. The guy seems to be drunk and yelling at the cops when they swarm on him. After beating on him for a few minutes the K9 guy shows up and lets his dog go apeshit while he tries to get in a few shots himself.

    1. He’s a good cop! He’s just misunderstood!








  9. Holy shit, those baboons are amazingly inept grapplers. An 11-year-old wrestler could have subdued that guy with less trouble.

    1. Be fair. 11 year old wrestlers are fit and don’t have donut bellies.

  10. What did that guy think was going to happen by taunting a bunch of bored, amped-up cops? A fucking noogie? Jesus, that guy kind of dug his own grave, but, damn, those motherfuckers really worked him over. You see that one PoS just repeatedly kneeing him in the back of the head?
    Though, I guess they could have killed him. Bet they regret that!

  11. But it would be a tragic, tragic shame if this cop’s bullet-riddled carcass showed up in a dumpster. And his little dog, too.

    1. i am honestly surprised people have been revenge killing cops with all this shit that goes on.

  12. This guy’s clearly an up-and-comer.

    1. Management material, all the way. I suggest he apply to head up Internal Affairs:

      “During my time with the department, I have been involved in 15 internal affairs investigations, all of which came to a successful conclusion.”

  13. Following the Lightning hockey game in Tampa last week, we were walking along to get back to the car. In front of us were a couple of neat dressed guys one of which was tipsy. Up ahead were two cops talking at the corner of a street. I don’t know what the drunk guy said but boy did one of the cops get in his face warning him to shut his mouth. Guy kept pressing and the cop threatened to take him in. There was a vicious hush from people around. It was like kids in a classroom terrified of a teacher.

    I don’t know what the law is about how to interact with cops or what violence is like in Tampa but they came off as hyper-tensed cops. Not familiar with the area we later asked a cop for directions and at first he was a little surprised but not overly friendly either and directed us in the right direction.

    1. I don’t know what the drunk guy said but boy did one of the cops get in his face warning him to shut his mouth. Guy kept pressing and the cop threatened to take him in. There was a vicious hush from people around. It was like kids in a classroom terrified of a teacher.

      The drunk should know there’s a “RESPECK MAH AUTHORITUH!!!” exemption to the First Amendment.

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