Ex-officer suing town over racial profiling investigation

AP News
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Posted: Jun 18, 2015 3:34 PM

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former police officer in an affluent Orlando suburb filed a federal lawsuit against the town Thursday after charges that he conducted racially based traffic stops were later dropped.

In addition to the town, attorneys for Jason Darnell, who is white, also is suing Windermere police chief David Ogden, Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator Alphonso Williams, and others after an investigation into the allegations discovered inconsistent statements in witness accounts.

In the suit, Darnell claims he "was subject to humiliation, pain and suffering" and was deprived of his constitutional rights resulting from the arrest. He is seeking unspecified damages for lost wages and harm to his reputation, which he says has prevented him from getting another job in law enforcement.

"You Google my name, it comes up 'Officer arrested for racial profiling,'" Darnell, 29, said. "The general public doesn't know the ins and outs of the entire story."

Ogden said in a written statement that Windermere was in the process of reviewing the complaint and could comment later.

In another statement, FDLE spokeswoman Molly Best said, "We are aware of the complaint, and we stand behind our investigation."

An attorney for Alejandro Rivera, the Windermere police officer who first alleged Darnell had profiled motorists, declined to comment.

Darnell was charged in April 2013 with misconduct and making threats against a public servant after Rivera told FDLE that Darnell had instructed him to pull over cars driven by three black motorists. The charges were dismissed by the state attorney's office the following month after it determined "the primary witness made inconsistent statements under oath."

Rivera was charged in November 2013 with one count of misdemeanor perjury and two counts of giving false statements to a law enforcement officer. He pleaded no contest in May 2014 to the perjury charge and paid restitution.

Darnell is being represented by attorneys Jose Baez and Benjamin Crump, who achieved national fame during the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin cases.

Baez won an acquittal for Anthony in 2011 on charges that she killed her 2-year-old daughter. Crump represented the family of Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by former neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman.

"I'm sure it's surprising to many people to see attorney Baez and myself representing a white police officer," Crump said. "But it's very important that we come out and stand for justice and stand for right. The allegations made to officer Darnell were false and could have been proven (false) easily with a competent investigation."

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