Adam Kim was among a group of teens arrested in March 2011 because of a noise complaint about a party in Fort Lee. He filed a federal civil rights suit, naming the borough, its former police chief and several officers, The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported Tuesday.
Kim said he and four other teenagers were left inside the van when others were taken into police headquarters and remained in the van for hours without food, water or a toilet as temperatures dropped below freezing.
Officers had seized the teens' cellphones, the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Newark said. The suit said the teens were rescued the next afternoon when a passerby spotted them and called police.
Kim said the officers used a racial slur to describe the teens.
A department investigation determined the officers did not act intentionally but failed to follow proper procedures. One officer was demoted and others suspended.
Nancy Lucianna, Kim's lawyer, said he still has emotional problems because of the ordeal.
"What happened to him and those other young men that day was an utter lack of supervision and a failure in the chain of command of the Police Department," Lucianna said. "I want to question the chief of police."
Thomas Ripoli, who was police chief at the time, retired Monday after four decades with the Fort Lee department.