Renegade Police in Rural Alabama Accused of Mass False Arrests of Hundreds of Black Youths

Another explosive report of institional racism by white police and prosecutors who willfully targeted black youths has emerged from one of the most remote regions of Alabama, the deep southeastern city of Dothan, where for years a handful of officers apparently planted drugs on hundreds of black youths and railroaded them into prison.

The documentary trail of these arrests dating back to the late 1990s and a subsequent coverup by high-ranking county law enforcement officials was first reported on Reporter Jon B. Carroll describes how a handful of powerful officers and prosecutors targeted the youths for several years:

A group of up to a dozen police officers on a specialized narcotics team were found to have planted drugs and weapons on young black men for years. They were supervised at the time by Lt. Steve Parrish, current Dothan Police Chief, and Sgt. Andy Hughes, current director of Homeland Security for the state of Alabama. All of the officers reportedly were members of a neoconfederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center labels racial extremists." The group has advocated for blacks to return to Africa, published that the Civil Rights movement is really a Jewish conspiracy, and that blacks have lower IQs.

Carroll reports that other Dothan police officers filed anonymous complaints with the city manager’s office and police commission in this isolated city of 66,000 people. However, the ensuing investigation apparently went nowhere, prompting them to write an anonymous letter to the region’s U.S. attorney in 2004. The officers, frustated that nothing came of the internal police investigations, provided copies of their letters and other police memos documenting the arrests, allegations and apparent coverup, Carroll said:

Several long-term Dothan law enforcement officers, all part of an original group that initiated the investigation, believe the public has a right to know that the Dothan Police Department and District Attorney Doug Valeska targeted young black men by planting drugs and weapons on them [for] over a decade. Most of the young men were prosecuted, many sentenced to prison, and some are still in prison. Many of the officers involved were subsequently promoted and are in leadership positions in law enforcement.

Carroll reported that there were hundreds of “false arrests,” and many people are still incarcerated. If true, the false arrests and imprisonment could expose the city to millions of dollars in liability for the victims of institutional racist policing. The police who filed the complaint are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to independently launch an investigation, he said:

By coming forward almost a decade later after these letters, this group of officers who witnessed drugs and weapons being planted and had the moral courage to bravely do the right thing are hoping the United States Department of Justice will intervene. The want a specially appointed federal prosecutor, from outside the state of Alabama to hold District Attorney Doug Valeska, former chief John White, current chief Steve Parrish, Homeland Security Director Andy Hughes and Capt. Carleton Ott responsible. But most importantly, attempt to make those hundreds of young black men’s lives whole again who have been victims of the Dothan Police Department.

Dothan sits in part of the old South where it is easy to believe that racist policing could have gone on for years. It is a remote city in the most southeastern Alabama county, next to the Florida panhandle. The local chamber of commerce boasts it is the “Peanut Capital of the World.” labels Dothan “the most redneck city in the entire state of Alabama,” saying it “has the most places to buy guns and ammo and the most number of stores to buy fishing gear per capita in the entire state.” The top photograph accompanying Carroll’s report showed many of the accused renegade white police officers posing behind a Confederate flag.  


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