Members of a specialized narcotics team operating in Alabama have been accused of planting drugs and weapons on innocent young African American men in a series of wide-ranging abuses spanning nearly 20 years in an investigative article printed by the Henry County Report.  According to documents obtained by the Alabama Justice Project, up to 12 officers working in the Dothan Police Department’s narcotics squad reportedly participated in the scheme, which began in the mid-90s.

They specifically targeted young African American men.  Most of the men were prosecuted and imprisoned, some are still incarcerated.

The report also indicated that the initial results of an internal investigation into the abuses was suppressed by the police department, including former Police Chief John White, current Police Chief Steve Parrish, former Sgt. Andy Hughes, who is now the assistant director of Homeland Security for Alabama, and District Attorney Doug Valeska.  The posts also mentioned former police officer Michael Magrino by name.  He now works as a private investigator.

Valeska appears to have been unconcerned by statements from officers attesting to the fact that evidence had been planted on defendants.  He barreled forward with prosecutions undeterred and failed to even share the information with defense attorneys.

The misconduct alleged is being overshadowed by the racism that may have affected decision-making at every level.  The article notes that the officers allegedly involved in the misconduct belonged to a neo-confederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described as “hostile toward democracy” and exhibiting “an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy.”

This specific group has advocated sending African Americans to Africa, has taken part in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and believe that African Americans have lower IQs.  The article alleges that Assistant Director of Homeland Security for Alabama Hughes and current Police Chief Parrish held “leadership positions”.  The documents were leaked by active Dothan police officers who have requested anonymity from the reporter.  The documents have been shared with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

There have been no announcements on whether Attorney General Loretta Lynch will investigate. 

“The documents,” the Henry County Report concludes, “serve as irrefutable evidence of criminal activity at the highest levels of the Dothan Police Department.”

There are as many as 1,000 potential wrongful convictions tied to these cases in the area where Dothan is located.

Dothan Police Chief Parrish released a statement following the allegations.  He also held a press conference to publicly address the “misinformation” allegedly spread by a local blogger.  Parrish said the post was made by Jon Carroll, the writer of the Henry County Report and that it is filled with “outright lies.”

“In today’s social media driven society, many individuals take what they read on the Internet as factual. While I am not in the habit of responding to misinformation published online by bloggers, accusations made concerning the credibility of the men and women of this agency shall not go unanswered,” Parrish said in the prepared statement he read aloud. “There are simply too many outright lies and fabrications in the blog to address individually, but his ‘opinion’ has apparently been taken by many as ‘fact.’”

Parrish said that he didn’t even want to hold the press briefing believing that it would give the blogger a “little” credibility.  Parrish said he has received calls for comment from major media outlets like the New York Times and CNN.

“It’s a sad day when people read something online and they take it for fact. The slant is there. He has an agenda. It’s the speculation of a loon and what he says happened,” Parrish said. “We are loyal servants to this city and its visitors.”

“While the photo copies of the documents posted online from Mr. Carroll appear to be authentic in nature they are arranged and redacted in a way to promote his agenda,” Parrish said in the statement,  “The specific incident he is illustrating involving a former officer was addressed and handled in accordance with applicable laws and department policy when it occurred back in the late 1990s.”

He said that it is important to note that the officer did not plant evidence, he was accused of improper handling of evidence.

“It burns me up when people get on the internet and run their mouth,” Parrish said. “I want to ask Mr. Carroll to put his money where his mouth is, and bring me some names [of victims].”

Parrish also addressed the accusations of his and other law enforcement officials involvement with a neo-confederate group.  He admitted to being a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

The report was accompanied by pictures of Parrish and other officers with Confederate flags.

“I am a history enthusiast.  My ancestors fought for the South during the Civil War and I’m proud of it,” he said.

Parrish said he started the local chapter around 1999 or 2000.  He said that it is not a group of “racial extremists”, but a non-profit.  He said he stopped serving the group in 2005.

“The allegations he made against me are just ridiculous. They’re not based on fact, they’re just crazy,” White said. “This just goes to his pattern and practice of publishing defamatory information without any vetting or act to determine the truth and veracity of what he’s publishing.”

Parrish said that the documents in the report are over 12 years old and given to Carroll by an officer who only served for one year in the 1970s.  He obtained them through an unrelated FOIA request in conjunction with a lawsuit.

Reportedly, Carroll has received a certified letter demanding the retraction of a previous Henry County Report post which implicated officers in the unsolved murders of Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley in Ozark.  He reportedly will receive another letter for this post.

Sources:  Innocence Project  |  SPLCenter  |  ORIGINAL REPORT:  Henry County Report  |  Dothan Eagle


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