Moulton Alabama Police Officer Mitchell Breland Arrested, Suspended, And Charged With Abuse And Torture Of A Child

September 14, 2012

MOULTON ALABAMA – A father and police officer arrested for child abuse.

“It’s real disheartening as a supervisor of the department. Its dishearting for law enforcement in general because we are sworn to uphold the law,” said Moulton Police Chief Lyndon McWhorter.

Moulton Police Officer Mitchell Breland, 27, faces two charges of felony torture or willful abuse of a child following an investigation by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

It absolutely just breaks my heart to hear. We have six kids and own a business in town, and I just hate to hear anything like that. Its inexcusable. Absolutely inexcusable. Someone who is out there in the public supposed to be protecting our kids, and then to find out they have been abusing theirs,” said Moulton resident Chris McKay.

Breland has three daughters, all under 10 years old. Recent posts on his Facebook page show he made several trips to the hospital with a least one of his daughters over the past few months. He claimed she suffered injuries at a park. The statements were posted shortly before the investigation began.

The Moulton Police Department was first notified last month that Breland was being investigated by the Department of Human Resources. He was then placed on administrative leave.

“As far as we could tell he was an excellent officer on the job, and again that’s where it kinda gets you blind-sighted because when you get a call about someone that you are not suspecting anything of, and then you have to go and do administrative leave and know that they are under investigation. That’s real heartbreaking to me,” McWorther said.

Breland will face the charges in front of a Lawrence County Judge, but for the Moulton Police Department regardless the outcome…the real damage is already done.

“It’s out there. Whether there is a conviction or not. You have public opinion and it’s a black eye toward law enforcement and our profession,” McWorther said.

At this point, Breland remains on administrative leave with pay pending a follow up investigation. According to The Decatur Daily, Breland resigned from the Decatur police force in 2010 after his estranged wife accused him of assaulting her and threatening her with a gun.

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Alabama Gives Up Information On Voters, Including Cellphone Numbers, Address, Birthdate, Etc. For Just A Penny

September 13, 2012

MOBILE, ALABAMA – For one penny, a political candidate, or even a private company, can buy from the state the name, address, even cellular telephone number if a person submitted it, of any registered voter.

And for $30,000, it can get the whole database from the Secretary of State’s Office on all 3 million Alabama voters.

That news surprised Foley resident Joni Alexander, as she was cooking chicken cacciatore Monday for her husband, who was coming home for a lunch break, when her cell phone rang.

It was an automated message, sometimes referred to as a robo-call, trying to encourage her to vote for a mayoral candidate.

“We get about 1 million robo-calls on the home phone, but I have never gotten one on my cell phone,” said Alexander, a retired teaching assistant. “I just instantly got mad and hung up. Then, after a few minutes, I thought, ‘How in the world did they get my cell phone number?’”

Alexander said she called the number back and left a message. Eventually, she learned that the candidate had bought her telephone number from Secretary of State Beth Chapman’s office, which, in accordance with Alabama law, sells the information to help fund its voter registration program.

For one penny per voter, the information is available in digital format. But if someone wants a printed page, it’s $1 per voter.

The information that can be bought includes the voter’s full name, address, phone number, date of birth, race, gender and 10 years’ worth of voting history. The list can be honed down so, for example, a candidate for county commission could buy information on all the voters in his or her district.

Alexander said that when she registered to vote, she wrote in her cell phone number, never imagining that information would be sold. She said she expects private businesses to sell such information, but not the government.

The state earns about $45,000 a year by selling this information, according to Deputy Secretary of State Emily Thompson. That money helps pay the salary of the state’s supervisor of voter registration, as well as for technology.

“There are two sides to the coin,” Thompson said. “Voters think the bar is too low, and some are shocked when they learn that we can sell their information. Then, the people who want the information sometimes don’t want to have to pay for it.”

Mostly, political candidates buy the information, to make phone calls or send brochures in the mail, said Ed Packard, supervisor for voter registration with the Secretary of State’s Office. But occasionally a business, such as a real estate firm or an insurance agency, will buy the data.

Packard said a law was passed when the statewide voter file was created in the late 1980s allowing the information to be sold to candidates or organizations sponsoring get-out-the-vote efforts. Sometime later, he said, the law was expanded allowing “pretty much anybody” to purchase the list.

Officials in the Secretary of State’s Office tried to change the law so that information on victims of domestic violence could keep their information secret. But that was never approved by the Alabama Legislature, Packard said.

“Every now and then, we do get phone calls, not a high number of them, from folks who are not pleased their information is for sale,” Packard said. “We tell them it’s state law. They’ll have to talk to their legislator about it.”

Packard said he’s heard complaints from some buyers, who have said Alabama charges more for this information than many other states.

According to a recent story on Fox News, 47 states sell — or even give away for free — voter information, some for as little as $25 for the whole statewide voter roll.

Alexander said she understands why candidates would want this information. But, she said, she wished the state would put a disclaimer on registration forms, saying the information could be sold.

“Virtually anybody can request this information,” she said. “I don’t like it. I just don’t like it.” 

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HIV Infected Alabama Prison Inmates Sue State Over Segregation From Other Inmates – State Won Similar Challenge In 1999

September 6, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – A lawsuit seeking to end Alabama’s distinction of being one of two states that still segregates HIV-infected prisoners is going to trial under a federal judge’s order Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson rejected the state prison system’s request to dismiss the suit. His ruling allows the non-jury trial of the case to start Sept. 17 in Montgomery.

The suit was filed by eight inmates who want to end their segregated housing and mix with other prisoners.

Prison Commissioner Kim Thomas said the state won a similar case in 1999 and is prepared for trial on this one.

Margaret Winter of the ACLU’s National Prison Project said the organization looks forward to “bringing an end to the Alabama Department of Corrections’ long shameful history of discrimination against people with HIV.”

Thompson noted in his order that Alabama began segregating HIV-infected inmates in the 1980s, when many states were doing it. But only six states did it by 1994 and now only Alabama and South Carolina continue the practice.

The Alabama prison system houses 260 inmates with HIV. They are confined at the Limestone Correctional Facility at Capshaw, Decatur Work Release Center, Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and Montgomery Women’s Facility.

The judge rejected the state’s arguments that it is immune from suit and that prisoners have no right to medical privacy. But he left one dismissal issue undecided: whether the suit is too similar to litigation filed by HIV-infected inmates in 1997 that sought to end segregated housing. That 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that case in the state’s favor in 1999.

Attorneys for the eight inmates argued that conditions are much different, with medical advances changing attitudes about HIV and that HIV is no longer an “invariably fatal disease” like the appeals court found 13 years ago.

Thompson said he would rule at the end of the trial whether the current case is too similar to the original suit to proceed.

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Federal Lawsuit Against Birmingham Alabama Police Use Of Pepper Spray In Schools Granted Class Action Status

September 5, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – A federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit challenging the Birmingham Police Department’s use of pepper spray in schools.

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon granted a request by attorneys for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had filed the lawsuit in 2010 with eight named students who were hit by pepper spray, to certify a class consisting of all current and future high school students of Birmingham City Schools for the lawsuit.

The questions being answered on behalf of that entire group is whether the police department’s policy in the use of pepper spray in schools and the training provided to the school resource officers are “constitutionally defective,” according to the judge’s order.

Attorneys for the police department did not respond to email requests for comment.

Kallon, who issued the order Friday, has previously dismissed the Birmingham Board of Education and superintendent from the lawsuit. He has not ruled on requests by an assistant principal and the police officers to dismiss all remaining claims against them as well.

John Carroll, dean of the Cumberland School of Law, said that granting a request for class action status, does not mean a judge won’t later rule in favor of the defendants in a case. But what ever ruling the judge makes in the case would apply to the entire class, he said.
Having the lawsuit become a class action case was good news to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This definitely elevates things to a different level,” said Ebony Howard, attorney with the center. “This is no longer eight kids challenging the (pepper spray) policy … This order is saying that every high school student in Birmingham has standing,” she said.

“We definitely feel that it is a positive sign,” Howard said.

The center filed the lawsuit in late 2010 claiming police officers working at the schools have used pepper spray for what are really just behavioral problems that don’t pose a threat to the officers. The center has stated in court documents that since 2006, more than 100 school children in Birmingham have been pepper sprayed, although more recently center officials put that number at 200.

The lawsuit seeks a policy on pepper spray use in schools and specialized training for police who service as school resource officers.
The police department has a general policy for its officers on use of chemical spray,

but has no specific policy regarding use of the spray in schools, according to court documents.

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REALID And Criminal Background Checks Are Not Enough, Alabama Department Of Corrections Now Taking Fingerprints From Those Visiting Prison Inmates

September 5, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – The Alabama Department of Corrections has enacted a first-in-the-nation policy requiring visitors at the state’s prisons to have their fingerprint scanned before they are allowed to enter the facilities.

An inmate stands at his cell door at the maximum-security facility at the Arizona State Prison in Florence, Ariz.

No other state prison system in the country has a similar requirement, a USA TODAY check of other corrections departments showed.

The change, implemented in August, has its roots in the prison system getting a new computer program, said Brian Corbett, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.

“Our IT department came up with the idea of scanning fingerprints as part of the upgrade,” Corbett said. “We still require visitors to have a government-issued photo ID, and that requirement will remain in place. But there are times when someone else resembles the photo on an ID. Scanning the fingerprint of visitors verifies they are who they say they are.”

The move is drawing some criticism.

State Departments of Corrections routinely require that visitors be approved, and each visitor undergoes a criminal background check. However, the fingerprint requirement is “extreme” said David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project.

“Alabama prison officials can’t say with a straight face that it is a security issue,” Fathi said. “Not when the remaining 49 state prison systems do not require the scanning of visitors’ fingerprints. It is an unnecessary barrier to visiting inmates.”

“Visiting during incarceration is a key factor that will determine if the inmate will re-offend” after being released, Fathi added. “There is study after study that shows the vital role interaction with family and friends plays with inmates while they are in prison. That support net is very important in the rehabilitation process.”

Alabama prison visitors’ fingerprints will not be filed in a database, and the prints will not be shared with other local, state or national law enforcement agencies, Corbett said. The prints will not be used to check whether the visitors have outstanding warrants, he said. Alabama operates 29 facilities that house a total of about 25,500 adult inmates.

Fingerprint scans, which are used to ensure only those on a list of approved visitors get into the prison, also make the visitation process more efficient, Corbett said.

“Under the old system, the corrections officer had to look at every ID and verify the identity of the visitor,” Corbett said. “That was a time-consuming task. Now the verification process is much faster.”

Fathi isn’t buying it.

“If showing a driver’s license is all that is required to get on an airplane that will fly you near the White House, it should be enough to get you inside a prison to visit someone,” he said.

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Nutcase Prichard Alabama Police Officer Ivan Lopez Arrested After Road Rage Incident

August 31, 2012

PRICHARD, ALABAMA – A Prichard Police Officer was booked into metro jail on reckless endangerment charges.

Ivan Lopez turned himself into Mobile Police Tuesday.

He’s accused of road rage during an alleged incident on the Cochran-Africatown Bridge back in July.

A woman, who we won’t identify, told police she was driving behind Lopez in his white Mercedes that night.

She says she passed him because he was driving too slowly.

As the woman approached the top of the bridge, she says she noticed Lopez in her rear view mirror, speeding towards her.

The woman claims the officer zoomed by her, cut her off, then completely stopped his car in front of her. She says she was forced to swerve to avoid hitting the car.

“After I did that he came beside me and tried to hit me with his car. He kept swinging his car towards mine and I kept moving out of his way,” the woman said. “At one point, when he came up and started the same thing again, I held up my cell phone and I said, ‘please leave me alone, if you don’t, I’m calling the police. ‘ “

The woman says Lopez then informed her he “was” the police.

The woman frantically dialed 911. She says Daphne Police advised her to exit the interstate and wait for police.

According to the woman, Daphne Police questioned Lopez at the scene.

She filed a complaint with Mobile Police, and after its investigation, Lopez turned himself into authorities.

Prichard Police Chief Jimmie Gardner responded to the incident.

“It’s the responsibility and duty of our officers to serve and protect the citizens. A citizen has alleged that an officer engaged in reckless endangerment while traveling down the road in a private vehicle.

This allegation is under investigation and if found to be true, we will take all appropriate actions,” says Gardner.

Lopez was released from jail on his own recognizance.

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Montgomery Alabama Police Officer Milton Strother Arrested And Quits – Charged With Theft Of Funds In Narcotics Arrest

August 30, 2012

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – The Montgomery Police Department confirms that it has arrested one of its own officers in connection with the theft of funds confiscated in a narcotics arrest.

Police Chief Kevin J. Murphy immediately initiated termination proceedings against the officer, who has resigned.

MPD charged Milton Strother, 25, with one count of second-degree theft, a Class C felony.

Following his arrest late Tuesday, Strother was transported to the Montgomery County Detention Facility, where he was being held under a $2,500 bond.

Montgomery Police initiated the investigation after determining that cash seized in a narcotics case last year had not been returned as ordered by a judge hearing the case.

In the course of the investigation, MPD says it developed information that led to Strother’s arrest. Strother was hired in 2007.

Because the investigation is continuing, no additional information is available for public release.

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