Allegations spark response

Published 9:39 am Thursday, August 30, 2012

MURFREESBORO – The Murfreesboro Town Council and the Chief of Police have responded to accusations lodged against police officers here.

On Tuesday, Mayor John Hinton provided the town’s response to the accusations after Rev. Walter Elliott read a memorandum from Dennis Stephenson during public comments at the monthly Town Council meeting.

In the memorandum sent to Hinton and Council members, Stephenson accused Murfreesboro police officers of “criminal behavior and civil rights violations” against residents. The accusations stem from an Aug. 25 incident which led to Christine Hicks being taken into custody by the MPD.

Among allegations listed in the memorandum dated Tuesday (Aug. 28) are that officers physically assaulted Hicks, pushed bystanders without provocation, used profanity, threatened citizens, and racial profiling.

The memorandum also accuses the District Court magistrate “with fabricating false charges” and Hertford County EMS with being “unprofessional in delivery of services” and making inappropriate comments.

“We appeal to you, our elected leaders, to initiate an independent investigation from the SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) regarding these matters,” Stephenson wrote. “We ask that you appoint an independent citizens panel to oversee the management of the Murfreesboro Police Department while this investigation is ongoing to ensure the rights of our citizens are not further violated. We are also requesting an investigation by the NAACP due to our lack of trust and confidence in our appointed officials because of their extremely racist and unprofessional behavior.”

Mayor Hinton questioned Elliott if he, and/or the family, were aware the council had seen the film of the incident from the dashboard camera of a Murfreesboro Police vehicle at the scene of the Aug. 25 incident.

Elliott said he was not aware of it, but was reading the memorandum as “hearsay.”

“I would urge if the family wishes to pursue this to the SBI that is exactly what they should do, we’ll make the film public,” Hinton said.

Hinton then referred to Police Chief Darrell Rowe and asked if he had anything to say.

Rowe encouraged an investigation as well.

“The tape speaks for itself,” Rowe said. “Members of the Council have seen the tape. The officers acted professionally and showed great restraint.”

“Based on the tape, should we pursue this you would be welcomed to go through the SBI and we will make the tape public to them,” Hinton reiterated to Elliott.

According to the arrest report, Hicks of East Main Street was arrested and charged with one count of intoxicated and disruptive, two counts of assault on a government official and one count of resist, delay and obstruct. She was given a secured bond of $4,000.

According to Rowe, on Aug. 25 officers were performing a traffic stop on a vehicle, which pulled into Hick’s yard, for a minor infraction. The driver was eventually let go with a warning.

Rowe said a large crowd of people had gathered during that traffic stop and police back-up was called to the scene.

Rowe said Hicks interfered with the vehicle stop and assaulted two officers by striking one in the nose and slapping the other.

“Unfortunately, the allegations have been made with no basis,” Rowe said.

Rowe said his officers conducted themselves in a professional manner and they also showed great restraint during the vehicle stop and arrest.

“I am very glad the entire incident was captured on dash-cam video, it verifies everything the officers said happened,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard to have a good relationship with the community. I would hate to have that reputation besmirched by untrue statements.”

Rowe said there is a complaint process for the department in place. No complaints regarding the incident were filed with the department.