By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen heard allegations of misconduct on city police officersâ part at its meeting Tuesday and passed a resolution to task chief administrative officer Lynn Spruill with coordinating an investigation of these allegations and reporting on the matter at the boardâs Jan. 15 meeting.
Starkville Police Chief David Lindley said Wednesday the Starkville Police Department is still waiting for Sabrina Campbell, a citizen living in Ward 7, to formally file her report on the allegations she made Tuesday evening during the citizensâ comments segment of the meeting. He said he cannot comment in detail about the investigation at this stage.
âI have not had the chance to speak with her yet, but as soon as she has, we will launch our investigation,â Lindley said. âUntil the plaintiff comes forward and gives us more information, we donât know what weâre dealing with at this point.â
Speaking to aldermen Tuesday night, Campbell alleged the incident began Dec. 7, when her 19-year-old daughter drove from the familyâs home to a roadblock eight houses away, where police stopped her. After checking this daughterâs license, she said, the police said they had a warrant for the daughterâs arrest because she had not paid a seat belt ticket. Campbell alleged the officersâ accusation was false, but she said the police officers agreed to let the daughter return home, since she lived nearby.
âBut before (the officers) did that, (they) put her through the wringer,â Campbell said. âSheâs devastated; sheâs crying; sheâs totally freaking out, because this is a pre-med college student (with) great grades. Sheâs calling her mom and dad, freaking out, scared to go back home.â
Campbell alleged her husband pulled into the family homeâs driveway 10 minutes later, and two officers immediately drove from the roadblock to the home, pulled in behind him and asked to see his license, which he showed them. During this process, Campbell said she arrived at home, and the officers thanked her husband for his time, but they did not leave, even when the husband asked.
âI pulled up (and) I said ... âWhat is the problem?â You know what he told me? âThereâs no problem, maâam.â I said, âSir, youâre on our driveway, on our land ... why not just leave instead of constantly badgering him, when heâs done nothing wrong?ââ Campbell said. âAnd weâre expecting them to (leave), right? Instead, (one) officer says, âFine, weâll leave,â but the other officer says ... âWell, you know, when we get on your property, we donât have to leave; we take over your property.â
âI have cousins that have battled in Afghanistan and Iraq ... and you tell me they died over there for an officer to come over to my property and tell me ... that you can come onto my property and declare it a police state ... and tell me physically what you will do to me in front of my 8-year-old?â Campbell added. âParker Wiseman, you cannot tell me what they did was right, and you cannot tell me that they donât owe my family a public apology. Now Iâm to the point where Iâm seeking legal representation. My 19-year-old is afraid to see a police officer because she is afraid they are going to stop her.â
By this point, Campbell was on the point of tears, and Wiseman said the three-minute time limit for an individual citizen comment had expired, but he also asked if Campbell had filed an internal investigation complaint. Campbell said she had not, and she alleged it was because of Lindley.
âIâm dealing with a chief thatâs ... going to do exactly nothing,â Campbell said. âHe never, ever has done anything.â
Wiseman then asked Campbell to return Wednesday and fill out a form for an allegation of police misconduct.
âThat triggers a process where an investigation goes all the way through the chain of command,â Wiseman said. âYou will get a notification as to the results of the investigation, and if you are not satisfied with that, please come see me.â
Campbell then asked how long it takes, and Wiseman redirected that question to Lindley, who was present at the meeting. Lindley said the investigationâs length will depend on the facts and the circumstances.
âThis is the first Iâve heard of this,â Lindley said. â(The investigation) has to be started and initiated by the complainant coming forward and giving a written statement. We just got national accreditation; itâs all been approved and reviewed by them.â
Campbell said she did not want the SPDâs national accreditation to overshadow the investigation. When Wiseman attempted to reassure her once again, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins asked to be recognized.
âIâm not aware of the board approving any policy for citizensâ complaints. It appears to me what youâve just told her is inconsistent with the ways that we have handled this (before),â Perkins said. âI donât think we should subject the citizens to have to go and do some bureaucratic paperwork just to be heard.â
Perkins made a motion for Spruill to ensure the matter is fully investigated, to consult with police and any other city sources as she sees fit and to report to the board Jan. 15. When Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver asked how long the investigation process Wiseman described has been in place, Lindley said it has been there 20 years.
Perkins again said others have come to the board with complaints throughout the year with no such process, and Wiseman said he has always referred complaints like Campbellâs to the internal investigation process. Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker said he believed Perkins was thinking of complaints about sanitation or other public services in particular.
âI think thatâs entirely different from someone making a claim against a police officer,â Parker said. âTo me, (the latter) is more serious. I would want it to go through the proper procedure weâve done in the past. I donât think we need city staff investigating police officers.â
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk then made an effort to clarify the issue further. She said the forms that Wiseman brought up and the oversight by Spruill that Perkins brought up are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
âI think what Alderman Perkins is asking is to have Ms. Spruill coordinate this,â Sistrunk said. âI think thatâs an appropriate thing to ask. I think the very first step in that would be having a very complete discussion with Mrs. Campbell and probably winding up with the form completed that Chief Lindleyâs going to need as they do that investigation.â
Perkins did not object to Sistrunkâs statement. Shortly afterward, Perkinsâ motion passed 6-1, with Parker voting against it.