ACLU Reaches Settlement with Smyrna Police Over Wrongful Arrests

Affiliate: ACLU of Delaware
February 19, 2015 11:18 am

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Wilmington, DE (February 19, 2015) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware has settled two law suits with the Town of Smyrna involving three different incidents of wrongful arrest.

In the first incident in August of 2013, Ronald Miles of Smyrna was arrested for cursing in the presence of a police officer while other officers looked on despite the fact that Mr. Miles had just been seriously injured in an assault. In the second incident, a motorist was ticketed for flashing his headlights about a speed trap. In the third incident, a student was arrested in retaliation for his mother’s pressing a harassment complaint against another student. In all three cases, the charges were later dismissed.

The order issued by the court requires wide ranging actions by the Town of Smyrna including issuing a memorandum by the Chief of Police, hosting a two hour police training session on police practices, reforming the department’s complaint process, expanding policies regarding audio/video recordings of police and civilian interaction, and discontinuing a quota system for issuing traffic tickets.

In the police chief’s memo, all police officers in the department must be advised that arrests should not be made without probable cause that a crime has been committed, that force should only be used when necessary and the amount of force should be warranted by the circumstances, that officers have an obligation to be truthful when completing arrest reports, and that if an arrestee is in need of medical care that it be offered immediately.

The memo must also outline the extent to which the First Amendment exempts expressive speech from criminal prosecution and that a traffic stop cannot be made based solely on flashing of headlights to warn of a speed trap.

“Individual officers cannot be permitted to abuse their authority and police departments must hold them accountable when they do so,” said Kathleen MacRae, ACLU-DE Executive Director.

“This settlement is an important step towards better training and oversight of officers in the Smyrna police department and, we hope, will vastly improve the relationship between the department and the citizens of Smyrna,” she continued.

ACLU-DE legal director Richard Morse, who represented the three plaintiffs, expressed appreciation to the plaintiffs for bringing their cases to the ACLU’s attention, so the problems could be addressed, and to the Smyrna Police Department for willingly taking remedial action.

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