September 29, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org 

Wilmington, Del. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and The Norman Law Firm filed a lawsuit today against the City of Dover and a city police officer because the officer assaulted a man during the course of a routine police stop that resulted in a broken jaw and facial lacerations to the lip, nose, and forehead.

In August of 2013, Lateef Dickerson of Dover was involved in a minor disturbance inside a Hess Gas Station on North Dupont Highway in Dover. After the clerk working at the station said he was calling the police, Dickerson left the premises and crossed North Dupont Highway, walking away from the incident. Immediately thereafter, Corporal Thomas W. Webster IV of the Dover Police Department arrived and ordered Dickerson to put his hands in the air, which Dickerson did. The officer then struck Dickerson repeatedly causing him to lose consciousness.

When Dickerson awoke, he was in Webster’s police vehicle being transported to Kent General Hospital where he was treated for facial cuts and diagnosed with a broken jaw. He later underwent surgery to repair his jaw.

After Dickerson filed a complaint with the Dover Police Department, they opened an internal affairs investigation concerning the incident but then dropped the investigation without finding that Webster had violated police department policies or had otherwise done anything wrong. Webster received no discipline, punishment, or further training or counseling as a result of the incident.

"These actions by Officer Webster violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution that establish a citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable, excessive and unjustified use of force by the police," said Richard Morse, ACLU-DE Legal Director. "There is no excuse for the injuries Officer Webster inflicted on Mr. Dickerson, and no excuse for the failure of the Dover Police Department to discipline the officer."

"Police misconduct such as this breeds mistrust and contempt towards the men and women who risk their lives to protect us," added Daniel Herr, attorney from The Norman Law Firm.

"A primary goal of this lawsuit is to ask the court to order the Dover Police Department to vastly improve their training, supervision and internal review procedures. 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. 

The suit also asks the court to award compensatory damages to Dickerson and for payment of attorney’s fees.

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