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Resident accuses SPD of unfair treatment

December 19, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
educ@starkvilledailynews.com

The Starkville Board of Aldermen heard allegations of misconduct on city police officers’ part at its meeting Tuesday and passed a resolution to task chief administrative officer Lynn Spruill with coordinating an investigation of these allegations and reporting on the matter at the board’s Jan. 15 meeting.

Starkville Police Chief David Lindley said Wednesday the Starkville Police Department is still waiting for Sabrina Campbell, a citizen living in Ward 7, to formally file her report on the allegations she made Tuesday evening during the citizens’ comments segment of the meeting. He said he cannot comment in detail about the investigation at this stage.

“I have not had the chance to speak with her yet, but as soon as she has, we will launch our investigation,” Lindley said. “Until the plaintiff comes forward and gives us more information, we don’t know what we’re dealing with at this point.”

Speaking to aldermen Tuesday night, Campbell alleged the incident began Dec. 7, when her 19-year-old daughter drove from the family’s home to a roadblock eight houses away, where police stopped her. After checking this daughter’s license, she said, the police said they had a warrant for the daughter’s arrest because she had not paid a seat belt ticket. Campbell alleged the officers’ accusation was false, but she said the police officers agreed to let the daughter return home, since she lived nearby.

“But before (the officers) did that, (they) put her through the wringer,” Campbell said. “She’s devastated; she’s crying; she’s totally freaking out, because this is a pre-med college student (with) great grades. She’s calling her mom and dad, freaking out, scared to go back home.”

Campbell alleged her husband pulled into the family home’s driveway 10 minutes later, and two officers immediately drove from the roadblock to the home, pulled in behind him and asked to see his license, which he showed them. During this process, Campbell said she arrived at home, and the officers thanked her husband for his time, but they did not leave, even when the husband asked.

“I pulled up (and) I said ... ‘What is the problem?’ You know what he told me? ‘There’s no problem, ma’am.’ I said, ‘Sir, you’re on our driveway, on our land ... why not just leave instead of constantly badgering him, when he’s done nothing wrong?’” Campbell said. “And we’re expecting them to (leave), right? Instead, (one) officer says, ‘Fine, we’ll leave,’ but the other officer says ... ‘Well, you know, when we get on your property, we don’t have to leave; we take over your property.’

“I have cousins that have battled in Afghanistan and Iraq ... and you tell me they died over there for an officer to come over to my property and tell me ... that you can come onto my property and declare it a police state ... and tell me physically what you will do to me in front of my 8-year-old?” Campbell added. “Parker Wiseman, you cannot tell me what they did was right, and you cannot tell me that they don’t owe my family a public apology. Now I’m to the point where I’m seeking legal representation. My 19-year-old is afraid to see a police officer because she is afraid they are going to stop her.”

By this point, Campbell was on the point of tears, and Wiseman said the three-minute time limit for an individual citizen comment had expired, but he also asked if Campbell had filed an internal investigation complaint. Campbell said she had not, and she alleged it was because of Lindley.

“I’m dealing with a chief that’s ... going to do exactly nothing,” Campbell said. “He never, ever has done anything.”

Wiseman then asked Campbell to return Wednesday and fill out a form for an allegation of police misconduct.

“That triggers a process where an investigation goes all the way through the chain of command,” Wiseman said. “You will get a notification as to the results of the investigation, and if you are not satisfied with that, please come see me.”

Campbell then asked how long it takes, and Wiseman redirected that question to Lindley, who was present at the meeting. Lindley said the investigation’s length will depend on the facts and the circumstances.

“This is the first I’ve heard of this,” Lindley said. “(The investigation) has to be started and initiated by the complainant coming forward and giving a written statement. We just got national accreditation; it’s all been approved and reviewed by them.”

Campbell said she did not want the SPD’s national accreditation to overshadow the investigation. When Wiseman attempted to reassure her once again, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins asked to be recognized.

“I’m not aware of the board approving any policy for citizens’ complaints. It appears to me what you’ve just told her is inconsistent with the ways that we have handled this (before),” Perkins said. “I don’t think we should subject the citizens to have to go and do some bureaucratic paperwork just to be heard.”

Perkins made a motion for Spruill to ensure the matter is fully investigated, to consult with police and any other city sources as she sees fit and to report to the board Jan. 15. When Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver asked how long the investigation process Wiseman described has been in place, Lindley said it has been there 20 years.

Perkins again said others have come to the board with complaints throughout the year with no such process, and Wiseman said he has always referred complaints like Campbell’s to the internal investigation process. Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker said he believed Perkins was thinking of complaints about sanitation or other public services in particular.

“I think that’s entirely different from someone making a claim against a police officer,” Parker said. “To me, (the latter) is more serious. I would want it to go through the proper procedure we’ve done in the past. I don’t think we need city staff investigating police officers.”

Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk then made an effort to clarify the issue further. She said the forms that Wiseman brought up and the oversight by Spruill that Perkins brought up are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

“I think what Alderman Perkins is asking is to have Ms. Spruill coordinate this,” Sistrunk said. “I think that’s an appropriate thing to ask. I think the very first step in that would be having a very complete discussion with Mrs. Campbell and probably winding up with the form completed that Chief Lindley’s going to need as they do that investigation.”

Perkins did not object to Sistrunk’s statement. Shortly afterward, Perkins’ motion passed 6-1, with Parker voting against it.

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