LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A Louisville Metro Police officer was suspended one day for violating pat down procedures during a controversial traffic stop of a black couple in August 2018 as they were driving home from church.
But the officer, Josh Doerr, and other police on the scene were not punished for any of the other allegations of improper conduct during the stop of Anthony Parker, his fiancée and 9-year-old son at 28th Street and Broadway, according to an LMPD memo on the findings, obtained by WDRB News.
Officers told Parker he failed to use a turn signal. But a body camera video showed Parker had signaled to turn.
The three were surrounded by officers from the Ninth Mobile Division — blocked in by unmarked vehicles behind and in front of them — questioned, removed from the car and frisked while police thoroughly searched inside the car and trunk.
When Parker’s girlfriend, Demetria Firman, was frisked, in her church dress, while her purse and vehicle were “torn apart without consent,” she asked Officer Doerr if “something was wrong,” according to a federal lawsuit filed in 2019 against former Chief Steve Conrad, the commander of the Ninth Mobile Division and four officers.
“This is how we conduct all our stops,” Doerr responded, according to his body cam video, obtained by WDRB News. “We’re a different kind of unit that works a little different than traditional.”
In a letter to Doerr from Conrad on March 9, the former chief said the officer violated policy when he patted down Firman without consent or proper authority.
“You failed to articulate facts to believe (she) was ‘armed and dangerous’ to support” the search, Conrad wrote.
Doerr was exonerated on a charge of violating a consent search procedure, and a claim he violated standard procedures of “officer responsibility” was deemed unfounded.
The way the Ninth Mobile has handled such stops has been a controversial issue in the last few years, prompting complaints of racial bias, multiple lawsuits and a drastic change to the department’s traffic stop policy.
In fact, one of the officers involved in stopping Parker and Firman — Kevin Crawford — was also involved in pulling over an African American teen in Aug. 2018 for making a wide turn. Tae-Ahn Lea was forcibly removed from his car and handcuffed while a police dog searched his vehicle. His family sued police in June 2019.
Crawford was also named in a lawsuit filed by a man who was pulled over with a mentally disabled passenger on Sept. 18, 2018 and frisked while a drug sniffing dog and officers searched the vehicle, even removing speakers out of the trunk.
During the lengthy stop, both men had to remove their shoes and the disabled man was searched twice.
Both the internal investigation against Crawford in that case and the stop of Parker and Firmen were closed by exception because he resigned, but Conrad wrote that he had committed no policy violations and would not have been punished.
Crawford, who has since been hired by the Jeffersonville Police Department in southern Indiana, is currently named in three civil rights lawsuits regarding Louisville traffic stops.
A third officer involved in the Parker and Firman stop, Sgt. William Keeling, also did not violate any procedures, Conrad concluded.
Firman went to LMPD days after she and Parker were pulled over to file a complaint, claiming the traffic stop was “racially motivated” and she “does not believe they should have been stopped,” according to a summary of the complaint.
In the lawsuit, filed by attorneys in U.S. District Court, Parker and Firman claim police improperly pulled them over because they are black and were driving a nice car “in a designated target neighborhood of LMPD.”
The suit claims Parker properly used his turn signal at the intersection of 28th and Broadway, as proven on body cam footage, and argues the reason for the stop was “fabricated” by police. And even if he hadn’t used his turn signal, attorneys Josephine Buckner and Sam Aguiar have said police had no reason to suspect there were guns or drugs in the car.
“Any guns in the car?” Det. Crawford asked Parker after telling him he was pulled over for failing to use his turn signal, according to body cam video. “No narcotics or anything? Man your hands are shaking like a leaf brother. Even your face is. I just like people to be honest and straight up with me.”
Parker has a job working for a glass maker, no criminal history and plays bass guitar for his church, according to the suit. Firman works in Aguiar’s office as a law clerk.
The lawsuit, which is still pending, is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
The stop likely would have violated several new policies that were put in place last summer, which raised the threshold for pulling over drivers and added rules on when people can be removed from their vehicles or handcuffed as well as limiting the number of police cruisers that can be involved.
But there was no such policy when Parker and Firman were pulled over Aug. 18, 2018, removed from the vehicle and frisked while officers searched the car and trunk, even looking through cushions and opening a box of chicken and fries.
The family was eventually released with no ticket issued.
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