The Delaware Attorney General’s office has secured an indictment against a Dover police officer who is seen kicking a suspect in the head, in a dashcam video. The video was released on May 7, after a federal judge ruled that the video was no longer confidential, according to a statement from the Dover Police Department.
The incident in question occurred in August 2013, after police responded to reports of a fight. Cpl. Thomas Webster is shown in the video, delivering a vicious kick to the head of suspect Lateef Dickerson, as Dickerson was complying with Webster’s command to get on the ground. The kick broke Dickerson’s jaw, and left him unconscious.
What makes this case different from some other recent cases of police brutality is the way it has been handled by Delaware officials. The case was originally brought to a grand jury in 2014. That grand jury refused to indict Webster. The U.S. Attorney’s office reviewed the case and found no civil rights violation.
The statement issued by the police department indicates that their internal investigation determined that Webster’s actions were “outside of Dover Police Department policy and the department took the appropriate actions.” The statement does not indicate what those “appropriate actions” were. Webster was returned to duty in June 2014.
Newly elected Delaware Attorney General, Matt Denn, reviewed the case after taking office in January, and took it to a second grand jury. That grand jury indicted Webster on May 4. The Dover Police Department has suspended Webster without pay, “pending the outcome of the criminal case.”
The video that was released was taken by a dashcam in another car that was on the scene. James Liguori, who represents Webster, says that the dashcam video from Webster’s own patrol car will show that “no crime was committed.”
Delaware civil rights expert Leland Ware has a different opinion. Ware tells Delaware Online, “There’s no ambiguity … It was just an unwarranted use of force.”
Regardless of the official outcome, Delaware authorities got things right in this case, where authorities in places like Ferguson, Missouri got things wrong. Attorney General Denn, rather than being an advocate for the police, as was the case in Ferguson, saw a case that he felt needed further scrutiny, so he did something about it. The Dover Police Department moved quickly to suspend Cpl. Webster without pay, whereas in Ferguson, Darren Wilson was put on paid leave.
Let’s hope that Delaware’s actions in this case, and the actions of the Maryland State’s Attorney in the Freddie Gray case, will become the rule, rather than the exception, for localities that have to deal with police misconduct.
Here is the video of the incident, via the Dover Police Department/YouTube (Cpl. Webster’s kick to the head occurs just past the 2:30 mark):
Featured image via YouTube screen capture