Montgomery, Ala.:  8 Police Officers Planted Evidence, Beat Blacks

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (February 15, 2002 7:13 a.m. EST) - Montgomery's police chief says "idiotic judgment," not racism, was behind the actions of eight white officers accused of planting evidence and beating blacks.

Federal and state authorities are reviewing at least three incidents involving the officers, the most recent of which occurred
Jan. 28 when one officer allegedly beat a black handcuffed teenager, challenged him to a fist fight, then sprayed him with
Mace.

The eight all resigned after an internal investigation began last week. A police review board recommended three other black officers be dismissed for witnessing but not reporting similar incidents.

Chief John Wilson said on Thursday that some of the officers would likely face criminal charges, but he denied any racism on their part."

I think what we're dealing with is an abundance of idiotic judgment and outright criminal activity," said Wilson, who is white.

"Some were leaders of the misconduct. Some knew it happened but didn't report it, which makes them just as much involved," he said. "I'm thoroughly convinced some will go to jail before this is over."The officers, all of whom worked on the overnight shift, face other allegations of planting evidence, jailing a person on false charges and throwing rocks and bottles at a suspected crack house. City officials said all the victims were black.

At a news conference Thursday, the state president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference called for a citizens
review board and said Wilson should resign.

"Incidents of police misconduct are bigger than black or white," said group leader Charles Steele. "The SCLC is fighting a
culture that begins at the top and filters down to others."Officer Michael Clark was arrested last week, accused of stopping a patrol car and hitting a teenager who was handcuffed. He then allegedly took the handcuffs off to fight the teen behind a high school, and sprayed him with Mace.

Clark has been charged with harassment and criminal use of a defense spray, a felony.Clark could not be located for
comment.Another officer, Wesley Hand, who was Clark's partner, reported the incident to investigators four days later. Hand is among the eight who resigned.

In October, one black officer and five white officers, including Clark, were accused of chasing a black man after responding to a domestic disturbance call. The officers were accused of kicking the man while he lay on the ground, then throwing him in some bushes at a cemetery. 



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