Thursday, July 05, 2007

Deputy Chief Ron Hodge Apologizes for Non-Major DPD Mistake

Laughter erupted when [DPD deputy chief Ronald H.] Hodge said he didn't "recall that the Durham Police Department has been involved in something where we made major mistakes in the past five years." - Brianne Dopart, The Herald-Sun (June 6, 2007)

"Boy says he was mistreated by officers" - Matt Dees, The News & Observer (September 28, 2006)

Police have launched an internal investigation into allegations that a 13-year-old boy was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and pepper-sprayed Monday, though he had done nothing wrong.

Delquan Pilgrim was walking to a convenience store on Enterprise Street about 4:30 p.m. when officers stopped him, his father, Eppert Lowery, said the boy told him.

The officers pushed Delquan to the ground and used pepper spray on him, Lowery said his son recalled.

"They just said he looked suspicious," Lowery said. "Ninety-five percent of the people in the neighborhood look suspicious."

Delquan wasn't charged with any crime. The officers took him to Duke Hospital for treatment of cuts and other minor injuries, where he was left for several hours without his parents being contacted, Lowery said.

Lowery said he spent years as a juvenile corrections officer, and he said there are techniques for restraining youngsters.

Those techniques don't include choke holds and other rough treatment that the boy said he received, Lowery said.

"I mean, he's a little bony-rony thing," Lowery said. "They just went a little bit too far."

Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said no one has been taken off duty while the incident is investigated.

She said that Deputy Chief Ron Hodge has contacted Delquan's father. She said she couldn't comment about specifics while the inquiry was under way.

Lowery said that Hodge apologized. But Lowery said that needs to come from the officer who allegedly assaulted his son.

"No one's really given us a sincere apology," Lowery said.

The Rev. Melvin Whitley, a community activist who was contacted about the case, said police have told him they can't confront drug dealers without probable cause.

"I can't get them to stop people who are selling drugs on my street corners," Whitley said. "But they're stopping this child, 13 years old, 125 pounds. And that's with all his clothes on."

It's the latest racially tinged incident raising questions about Durham police conduct.

Gary P. Lee, 38, and Scott C. Tanner, 33, were fired from the force recently for their alleged role in a fight outside a Raleigh sports bar. The black victim alleges the white off-duty officers used racial slurs against him, though a police investigation couldn't confirm that.

Whitley noted the officers who who allegedly assaulted Delquan are white. Delquan is black.

"If the officers were green, I'd feel the same way," Whitley said. "I ain't got a clue why the police officer chose to stop this one little child."

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