Saturday, May 21, 2005

Abused Officer Awarded $300,000

Saturday, May 21, 2005
By Jeremy Pawloski
Journal Staff Writer

The state Department of Public Safety paid $300,000 to settle a tort claim brought by a black former State Police officer who, according to court records, was sprayed with Mace, handcuffed to a telephone pole and photographed by a group of fellow officers.
The tort claim was filed by former State Police officer Dexter Brock, who left the department in the wake of the May 2000 incident. The officers were on duty in Los Alamos during the Cerro Grande Fire at the time.
A State Police internal affairs report found that the incident was not racially motivated but that an officer involved "exercised exceptionally poor judgment."
That former officer, Jerome Sedillo, had filed a lawsuit asking for reinstatement as a police officer. But the lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month by Santa Fe District Judge James Hall.
According to a State Police internal affairs report marked "confidential" and filed by a DPS attorney in connection with Sedillo's lawsuit:
The State Police officers who were present in the area, "a public parking lot," at the time of the May 22, 2000, incident included officer Billy Martinez, officer Adrian Armijo, officer Jerome Sedillo, officer Richard Matthews, former officer Dexter Brock, and Sgt. Jim Long (then officer Long).
DPS spokesman Peter Olson said the officers named in Sedillo's internal affairs report are not necessarily the same officers who were ultimately found to have been involved in the incident involving Brock. He also said he could not eliminate any of the names.
He also declined to give specific details Friday about which officers were disciplined in relation to the incident or about what their punishments might have been.
Olson did say that discipline was meted out after the incident, and that "people resigned in relation to the incident."
"There were some resignations and some suspensions without pay and some reassignments," Olson said. "It's safe to say people were suspended for their actions or resigned to avoid further incident."
According to the internal affairs report, Sedillo was found to have sprayed Mace into Brock's patrol unit during the incident.
And, in an affidavit by State Police Chief Carlos Maldonado also filed in connection with Sedillo's reinstatement lawsuit, Maldonado wrote that Sedillo in fact Maced Brock "in order to force him out of his patrol unit, whereupon the officers subsequently drug him to a telephone pole and handcuffed him to the telephone pole, in the dark, and photographed him handcuffed to the telephone pole."
However, the internal affairs report also states that Sedillo "did not take an active role in either physically restraining or handcuffing" Brock.
According to the Internal Affairs report:
Sedillo said that officers were engaged in "bantering-like behavior, absent any racial remarks" during the incident. But the report also says the remarks to the black officer included: "Smile so I can see you," "What's up, my nigger?" and "You look like a survivor/victim from the fire."
At the conclusion of the investigation, the district attorney declined prosecution of Sedillo or the other officers involved in the incident, court records state.
Sedillo's attorney, Donald Sears, could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
Brock's father, the Rev. Jonathan Brock of the True Victory Church of God in Christ in Clovis, declined to discuss the incident when reached by telephone on Friday. Jonathan Brock said he would try to reach his son in Florida to see if he wanted to comment on the incident, but Dexter Brock had not contacted the Journal by late Friday afternoon.

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