BPD Investigation

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 4, 2009

BPD probing claim of abusive officer

By Jason C. Mattox

The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen were warned about the perception of the city’s police department during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting.

A woman said members of her family had been having problems with officers, with one officer’s name being thrown around the most.

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Batesville Police Chief Tony Jones told The Panolian Thursday afternoon that the matter is under investigation and the findings would be presented to the mayor and board of aldermen as soon as they are complete.

“We take complaints against our officers very seriously,” he said. “Anyone who wishes to do so can come by the station and put the complaint into writing and it will be handled. We are not going to tolerate anyone on this department abusing their authority.

“We understand that an officer is not always going to be right, but it doesn’t mean that people should not be respectful,” Jones added. “We are out there doing what we do to keep the people safe.”

“Members of your police department are picking on my grandsons,” the accuser said Tuesday. “[The officer] whooped one of my grandsons in my own backyard.”

The woman presented a set of petitions with complaints about the BPD signed by Ward 2 residents.

“I want to know why we can’t charge a police officer with assault,” she said. “At one point [the officer] had my grandson handcuffed and on the ground, and he kicked him.”

She said the officer had assaulted her grandson on another occasion where he pinned his arm behind his head and punched him.

“When all this took place, they were looking for another one of my grandsons,” she said. “There were not even there looking for him.

“Why would they arrest him if he was not the one they were looking for?” she asked. “There is just too much of this going on.”

Aldermen then asked Police Chief Tony Jones to explain the situation.

“I don’t go out on each and every call,” he said. “But they way I understand this, it involves one grandson and several different officers.

“I can tell you we have investigators looking for one particular grandson for rape, and we are going to keep looking,” Jones continued.

Jones explained that the woman’s grandson has a habit of not complying with officers.

“This grandson keeps being asked by officers to take his hands out of his pockets and he doesn’t do it,” he said. “That is something we do as a measure of officer safety.”

Jones said the department would continue patrolling the area in question [near Patton Lane].

“If there is someone breaking the law, whether they are black, blue or green, we are going to do what we have to do,” he said. “It is our job to protect the people of this city, and we are going to continue doing so.”

The woman said she had no problem with the patrolling, and added that she had spoken with “several white people” who said they have had similar problems with officers.

“Your officers don’t have the right to just beat on someone,” she said.

Rev. Marlon Coleman was the next to speak on the issue.

“We have several problems in this city,” he said. “All of the officers are not problems.”

Mayor Jerry Autrey then asked Jones where the department stood on hiring more black officers.

“We have two applications we are looking at right now, and one of them is black,” he said.

Coleman said that the alleged actions of some officers have residents in Ward 2 convinced they cannot walk around their neighborhoods at certain hours of the day.

“We have got to work together to bridge the divide of racial tension before it hurts the entire city,” he said. “I just ask that the city take these complaints seriously and work to resolve the issue.”

Ward 4 Alderman Eddie Nabors asked Coleman if he could explain what the problems are.

“In my time talking with the people of Ward 2, they say the problem with officers has been going on, but they don’t know what to say about it,” he said. “But if there are some bad officers, it needs to be taken care of.”

The woman echoed that sentiment saying, “Other people are afraid to come to you because they don’t want the police picking on them again, but let me tell you something, I’m not scared. I can stand my ground.”

Another woman who identified herself as the “other boy’s mother” then shed more light on the alleged incident with the woman’s grandson.

“The officer said he had a warrant, but he never showed me,” she said. “If he had stopped and asked me I would have brought my son down to turn himself in.

“The truth is, the officer is trigger happy and aggressive and he likes to threaten the kids,” she said. “He punched him twice and before he could do it again, another officer stepped in between them.

“What this officer is doing is not OK,” the woman added. “That officer has issues. I have seen him with three different kids and he gets aggressive with them.

“He will park at the store and as soon as people get out of the car, he wants to search them, it just isn’t right,” she said.

Coleman said the allegations made this a situation city leaders needed to address quickly.

“The city doesn’t need this kind of problem,” he said.

Aldermen went into executive session at the end of the meeting to discuss personnel in the police department, but no action was taken.