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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Daytona Beach Uses Taxpayers Funds to Pay for Settlement in Abuse of Power Case

Daytona Beach CopsDAYTONA BEACH, FL - A nice sunny day on the beach park and a movie with her 3-year-old son and her young cousin were the preamble of a nightmare to local 26-year-old Joy Millings. That day, May 14th, 2008 will forever be remembered by the young lady and her child as they were touched personally by Daytona Beach's moral decay and public officials' abuse of powers at their worst.

To a Daytona Beach Cop looking for an easy mark and raise revenue, Ms. Millings was an ideal target. Typically, women with a young child represent no danger and hardly ever contest wronged citations. It is well known that it is just too costly in loss time off work to fight a wrongful citation, and with the threat that the fine might even be set much higher if one goes to court, most elect just to pay rather than defend their case no matter their innocence. If they do defend and win, they lose anyway as they recover nothing, no damages can be assessed against the police officer or the city issuing the wronged citation. It's a very lucrative system and in these depressionary times, with the city looking for additional revenue sources, a very nice system indeed.

Millings was driving on Clark Street, just shy of the intersection with South Street, when Officer Justin Dunne said he noticed her license-plate light was burned out. Millings was pulled over right as she was reaching the front of her cousin's home. Dunne asked for her registration, proof of insurance and driver's license. She gave him the first two, but she told the officer her purse was in the trunk, and her license was in the purse. After ignoring her pleas, Dunne then proceeded to ask her to sign a citation for failing to produce a driver's license.

Millings said she kept telling him her license was in the trunk, and she asked him to call a supervisor. Dunne refused and responded that "the sergeant would be mad because he woke him up,".

Police Chief Chitwood later said that this was a false statement as there are always sergeants or lieutenants "very much awake" at the department day and night.

Other officers arrived on the scene and one of them even allowed Millings' cousin to retrieve the license and give it to Dunne. Still, Millings wound up being handcuffed and transported to jail. None of the other officers interceded for Ms. Millings at the obvious abuse of powers.

After a terrifying night in jail, the next morning she had to post $250 bail to get out and paid another $106 to retrieve her 1990 Honda, which had been locked up overnight at Daytona Wrecker Service.

What the Daytona cops had not counted on was that this nice innocent lady had enough of an education to realize her constitutional civil rights had just been violated. She retained an attorney and took on the City.

She hired Attorney Sam Masters who commented there never would have been a traffic stop if it all took place in a different neighborhood and the person behind the wheel was "a pretty blonde." instead of a black lady.

They stopped a woman who has a completely clear record. She comes from a good family. She was yanked out of the car right in front of her 3-year-old.
Attorney Sam Masters

It was an easy case, the city acted quickly in issuing an apology and settling the case for $50,000.

The gist is we were wrong
Police Chief Mike Chitwood

Most lawyers in the area are terrified at taking on the City. Due to sure to come retribution to their businesses at the hands of cronies of the Daytona Capos, or to see their future cases lost at the hands of dirty judges, most elect to stay away from cases that deal with the massive corruption that has infected Daytona Beach.

The City is lucky, however, that the local attorney settled so quick for just $50,000. A sharp South Florida personal injury attorney on a jury trial could easily have gotten Five Million and more.

Power at the hands of the unqualified: a recipe for disaster

Poor training, little formal education, and self-aggrandizement ideas due to the power they wield lead these police officers to deem "lack of respect" as a capital offense. When Ms. Millings declined to sign the clearly unjust citation, it became more than that in the cop's mind, it became a personal affront and it was too late to change his mind and admit his error, he proceeded arresting the innocent lady and sparked a chain of events that will cost the City of Daytona Beach $50,000 to settle plus an incalculable amount in continuing bad publicity and further mistrust of its public officials.

The officer's conduct was outrageous and highlights the abuses of power that have made this city famous nationwide. He should have been fired on the spot by Chief Chitwood, no excuses. Instead, Chitwood suspended the officer for two days... Officer Dunne continues to this day on the Daytona Beach Police payroll.

Local cops are well known for playing cover for each other. This brings additional focus on the recent incident where two Volusia County Beach Patrolmen had sex with an underage child, were duly recognized and accused by the child, they acknowledged having sex with the child, yet they remain unprosecuted. It is widely believed that the State Attorney's office swept the case under the rug, presumably bending to pressure from the police union which played a key part in his election.

If this is the case - and we sincerely hope it is not - State Attorney Larizza's much hoped for anti-corruption drive was all hot air to get elected and nothing else.

The Real Losers: Daytona Beach Taxpayers

Other than Ms. Millings, the real losers are, once again, Daytona Beach Taxpayers. They are the ones that City Management decided should pay for Dunne's abuse of powers. The $50,000 settlement comes out of the city's funds.

Officer Tilly must pay this amount, not the taxpayers. He broke the law by abusing his powers. His decision to break the law was personal and the evidence shows he did it "to teach a lesson" to someone and whom he saw as a challenge to his authority. It mattered not that the person was innocent, but that his sense of self-worth was infringed upon and for that he abused his power as a police officer. He must reimburse the city just as anyone else must reimburse the city when destroying public property.

We will not hold our breath waiting, however, after wasting half a billion dollars of taxpayers hard earned moneys, who cares about another fifty grand... Definitely not City Manager Jim Chisholm nor the Daytona Beach City Commission.

When money runs short they just raise taxes a little more.

A disturbing trend...

According to The News Journal, Over four of the past five fiscal years, the city's annual tallies for all settlements ranged from $325,000 to $373,000. During the fiscal year that ran from Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2007, a total of nearly $637,000 in settlements was paid out. For all but one of the past five years, police department-related settlements accounted for $215,000 to $267,000 of those payouts. In the October 2005 to September 2006 fiscal year, police-related settlements tallied just $63,000.

All funded by Daytona Beach Taxpayers...

The Most delicious of all privileges – spending other people’s money
John Randolph
Early 19th Century Member of Congress

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