Newport This Week

Is Police Culture Flawed?

To the Editor:

Recent articles in Newport This Week reporting separate situations where police officers may have acted with unwarranted excessive force remind me of a similar incident I became indirectly involved with a year ago.

In that case, a young Black man, en route home from his job and the son of a woman who was my late wife’s caregiver, was arrested for allegedly having a noisy motorcycle and subsequently for resisting arrest at a busy Newport intersection. According to several witnesses later brought forward, the young man in no way resisted, but was tackled, struck while on the ground and then handcuffed before being taken away in a police vehicle. Two young women bystanders who tried to intercede for the victim were then subsequently roughed up, arrested and put in another police vehicle.

When I heard about this, I was advised by my attorney not to go the chief of police to plead the man’s case because he was known to be unreceptive to such a request.

I was then referred by my lawyer to an attorney specializing in such cases, subsequently retaining him to represent the young man. He told me I was correct not to go to the police department myself, inferring that it was known that those in charge protect “their own” regardless, and that it might possibly in some way bring retribution on myself.

Ultimately the case went before a judge and all charges against the young man were dismissed. Justice was finally served, but at an unfortunate and unnecessary price to the victim and his family.

It seems so sad and wrong that we have rogue police officers among us, hopefully just a few, supposedly there to protect our citizens, but who can also sometimes be a threat to us. I do not know what, if anything, can be done to reform this apparently flawed culture, but as a longtime Newport resident I feel compelled to speak out against it.

Robert Walker

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