Federal lawsuit alleges Wiggins police have a history of abusing minorities, disabled

Federal lawsuit alleges Wiggins police have a history of abusing minorities, disabled

STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A black woman who said she was choked, slammed against the concrete and stripped naked by two white Wiggins police officers during her arrest has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Daphine Alford's suit alleges the Wiggins Police Department has a reputation for abusing minorities and the disabled.

Daphine Alford's attorney said in the three years since her arrest she's been diagnosed with PTSD and depression. The attorney brought us surveillance footage from the jail which he says shows some of what happened to his client at the hands of two police officers. We want to warn you, the video is graphic.

The cameras at the Stone County Regional Correctional Facility captured Alford as she is brought in by two Wiggins police officers in January 2013. She claims the police brutality started earlier that night when she was standing on the street talking to a friend.

"She was not a suspect. She was not engaged in any criminal activity whatsoever," said Jim Halliday, Alford's attorney. "There was no warrant for her arrest. There was no reason for the police to even stop and question her. After they did and she protested, two white police officers stopped her, a mature African-American lady with her friend, then it went downhill from there."

The surveillance video shows Alford hitting the ground. Other video surveillance captured her screams.

Halliday said, "When they smashed her into the pavement, they smashed her face in. Busted up her teeth. They drug her into the jail. They gave her no medical assistance."

Once inside of a holding cell, Alford's attorney said the two male officers began taking off her clothes.

"She looks up and sees these white police officers stripping off all her clothes," Halliday said. "She says ''Why are you taking off my clothes? Where are my pants? Where is my bra?' Then she's completely naked. She's starting to freak out. That's when they sprayed her with all the pepper spray and mace."

Halliday said her initial charges were misdemeanors. He said because the officers accused Alford of assaulting them, she was charged with two felonies The bond was set high and she couldn't afford to get out of jail.

"They falsely accused her of crimes she did not commit and left her in the jail for 33 days. How much is that worth? How much is a woman's dignity worth? How much is being falsely incarcerated worth? I don't know if you can put a dollar amount on that. That's going to be up to a jury," Halliday said.
"This is the only way to force Wiggins Police Department to reform is to drag them into a courtroom and let a jury decide what the punishment should be."

Halliday said just days before Alford's arrest, the same two police officers were involved, along with other officers, in an assault on a white man at city court. That resulted in a lawsuit that was later settled.

"They should have been suspended at that point, even with pay, to investigate what happened. Because he was injured and had to leave Wiggins Municipal Court by ambulance to the hospital," Halliday said. "These officers would not have been on the street. They would have not been up to more shenanigans or abuse of disabled people or minorities."

Halliday said, "This is the M.O. of the Wiggins Police Department. They pick on who they think they can get away with. That's minorities. That's disabled people. Friends of minorities. This is not Mississippi from the 50s and the 60s. This is a new century. There's no place in police for any of these activities and abuse to take place."

Her attorney said after 33 days in jail, Daphine Alford sent a handwritten note to the warden asking for an investigation into what happened to her. After that investigation, she was released. Those initial charges of disorderly conduct and possession of paraphernalia were never prosecuted nor were the felony charges of assault on the two police officers.

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