PD Whose Officers Brutalized A Black Soldier For Driving To A Well-Lit Area Sued By Virginia Attorney General
from the fuck-with-the-rights,-get-the-horns dept
Windsor, Virigina was the recipient of unflattering nationwide news coverage due to two police officers deciding a black driver — and Army medic — needed to be brutalized for seeking a well-lit area to pull over. The whole thing was caught on the officers’ body cameras, including their threats to make Lieutenant Caron Nazario “ride the lightning” (a reference to the officer’s Taser) as well as the officer’s affirmation that Nazario was right to be scared to exit his vehicle.
A low-speed, non-lengthy, non-chase of one hundred seconds led to several minutes of violence, threats of further violence, and violated rights. The officers shouted conflicting orders — to both keep hands where they could be seen as well as to exit the vehicle, something impossible for Nazario to comply with considering he still had his seatbelt on. The officers pointed their guns at him the entire time, pausing only to pepper spray him in the eyes. Nazario sued. That lawsuit is still ongoing. One of the officers — Daniel Crocker — is also facing criminal charges.
But there’s a postscript to this case that involves another lawsuit involving the Windsor Police Department. The state’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, is suing the Town of Windsor over biased policing engaged in by PD officers.
After a months-long investigation revealed disturbing evidence of discriminatory, unconstitutional policing, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today filed suit against the Town of Windsor alleging that its police department has operated in a way that led to discrimination against African Americans and violated their constitutional rights. This is the first enforcement action against a law enforcement agency under the new state law empowering the attorney general to file suit to stop systemic violations of Virginians’ civil rights.
The lawsuit [PDF] alleges plenty of questionable behavior by the town’s law enforcement officers — something that explains the actions taken by the two officers involved in this controversial traffic stop. Here’s what the Attorney General uncovered during the investigation of the Windsor PD:
Black drivers accounted for approximately 42% of the department’s traffic stops from July 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021 (810 of 1,907 stops.) During that time period, the Town stopped Black drivers between 200% and 500% more often than would be expected based on the number of Black residents in the town or county.
From July 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021, the Department searched more vehicles driven by Black drivers than White drivers, even though Black residents do not constitute the majority of the population of the Town or the Commonwealth.
Not only is there evidence of biased policing, there’s evidence the Windsor PD misled its most direct oversight, the Windsor Town Council.
For many of the examined months, there was a significant discrepancy between the number of traffic stops and citations reported to town council and reported to the Virginia State Police for tracking and reporting purposes. In all instances the numbers reported to the Commonwealth were lower than those shared with town council, and the discrepancy has not yet been explained.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the PD from engaging in discriminatory policing. It demands policy changes to ensure traffic stops are bias-free, mandates accurate reporting of use of force incidents, and order the PD to submit to third-party monitoring of its compliance with state and local laws, as well as the specifics of any order issued by the court handling this lawsuit.
The Town of Windsor has already responded. And it claims [PDF] AG Mark Herring is doing this for the clicks:
The decision by Attorney General Mark Herring to file a lawsuit against the Town of Windsor on the eve of the new year and just 17 days before he leaves office is clearly political.
Despite the Town’s cooperation and progress, the Attorney General’s office, just days later, issued an ultimatum demanding immediate action or the threat of litigation, knowing the Town Council would not meet again to address this until January 11 – a mere four days prior to Mr. Herring leaving office. Given that the Complaint cites questionable data on the quantity and nature of traffic stops and searches, as well as its reporting, the suit lacks any context as to what the Town has done over the past year to address any concerns. The Town is stunned that this suit was filed on December 30, just hours before Courts closed for the year.
Therefore, there was no need for Mr. Herring to file this lawsuit, except perhaps for the sake of headlines, which he will surely receive.
A government complaining about how another government entity engages in government business is pretty rich. Government officials wait until holiday weekends to dump bad news. Litigation almost always commences at the last minute, often just before the statute of limitations takes effect. Everything is political, even when everyone in political agencies claims it isn’t.
But it’s extremely disingenuous to claim this was done solely for the headlines. An actual investigation occurred and the results led the AG to the conclusion a lawsuit was needed to change the Windsor PD’s evidently-biased policing. The results of this investigation will also aid Lt. Nazario’s lawsuit against these officers, as he will now be able to point to a pattern and practice of targeting minorities.
The town says it “looks forward to a reasonable conversation” with AG Herring’s successor. But its first response is anything but reasonable and suggests the town feels its police department doesn’t need to be changed, much less subjected to more scrutiny. And that suggests any future conversations will be short on reasonableness and heavy on defensiveness.