Members of a specialized narcotics team operating in Alabama have been accused of planting drugs and weapons on innocent young black men in a series of wide-ranging abuses spanning nearly two decades, an article in the Henry County Report has revealed.
According to documents obtained by the Alabama Justice Project, up to 12 officers working in the Dothan Police Department’s narcotics squad reportedly participated in the scheme—which began in 1996—and specifically targeted young black men. Most of the young men were subsequently prosecuted and imprisoned, with some still incarcerated.
Moreover, the findings indicate that the initial results of an internal investigation into the abuses were suppressed by ranking officers among the police department’s leadership, including former Police Chief John White, current Police Chief Steve Parrish, then-Sgt. Andy Hughes, who is now the assistant director of Homeland Security for the State of Alabama, as well as District Attorney Doug Valeska.
For his part, Valeska appears to have been unperturbed by written statements from police officers attesting that evidence against the defendants had been planted. He nevertheless plowed forward with his wrongful prosecutions and failed to share any such information with defense attorneys.
The alleged misconduct committed by Dothan Police Department is also overshadowed by the looming specter of racism which, the Henry County Report suggests, may have affected decision-making at the highest levels. The article notes, in fact, that the officers allegedly involved in the criminal misconduct belonged to a neo-Confederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as being “hostile towards democracy” and exhibiting “an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy.”
“The group has advocated for blacks to return to Africa, published that the civil rights movement is really a Jewish conspiracy, and that blacks have lower IQ’s,” continues the article, adding that both Parrish and Hughes held “leadership positions in the group.”
Leaked by active Dothan police officers who have requested anonymity, the documents have since been shared with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in the hope that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.
“The documents,” the Henry County Report concludes, “serve as irrefutable evidence of criminal activity at the highest levels of the Dothan Police Department.”
It is believed that there are nearly 1,000 wrongful felony convictions tied to planted drugs and weapons in Alabama’s 20th Judicial District where Dothan is located.