WATCH: Knoxville Police Officer – For Third Time – Illegally Detained Black Man in Drug Probe

A Knoxville Police Department officer repeatedly accused of using illegal tactics to garner the arrests of black men has received another judicial rebuke – the third in his seven-year career.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals last week overturned drug convictions against Calvin Lyndell Dibrell and ordered the case against him dismissed.

The court ruled KPD Officer Thomas Turner and a crew of fellow officers who patrolled the predominantly black neighborhoods in East Knoxville in February 2014 illegally detained Dibrell, went fishing for cause to search for drugs and – finding no legal cause – searched him anyway.

Pattern of behavior
The case marks the third time judges have publicly rebuked Turner’s tactics as legally flawed and dismissed charges as a result.

KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk said the agency reviews “all court rulings ad (uses) them in our daily training as appropriate.” He said Turner decided to apply for an opening on the agency’s bicycle patrol and “is currently serving in that capacity,” rather than patrolling East Knoxville.

No disciplinary action has been taken against Turner in connection with racial profiling allegations or the judges’ rulings, he said.

Dibrell, 52, was waiting in his car outside a drug store on Magnolia Avenue in February 2014 while his girlfriend was inside filling a prescription when Turner, beat partner Richard White and a third officer “suddenly converged” on the scene, the appellate opinion stated.

KPD K-9 Officer Joey Whitehead a few moments earlier had radioed an alert that an anonymous tipster walked up to him at a car wash and said Dibrell was selling drugs in the drug store parking lot. The tipster did not detail what drugs Dibrell allegedly was peddling or provide any basis for his claim, the court noted.

Turner and White blocked Dibrell’s car with their cruisers. Turner admitted in testimony the trio of officers wanted to “see if we could find him and just conduct a consensual encounter, talk to him,” the opinion stated.

‘You’re good (but) hang tight’
Turner quizzed Dibrell, who denied dealing drugs, the court stated.

“Despite the defendant’s denial and officers’ failure to observe any illegal activity or any visible narcotics, officers asked the defendant to step out of his vehicle, and the defendant immediately complied,” the court wrote.

“Shortly after conducting a weapons pat-down of the defendant and finding nothing, an officer tells the defendant … ‘You’re good, if you want to hang tight on the sidewalk there,’” the opinion stated.

“At this point, officers had no reason to continue their detention,” the opinion continued. “He had denied selling narcotics, officers found nothing illegal on the defendant’s person after a pat-down and had seen nothing illegal in the defendant’s vehicle, and the defendant had fully cooperated with them. Indeed, an officer even told the defendant that he was ‘good,’ yet requested that he ‘hang tight.’”

The officers summoned Whitehead, who later testified his K-9 “alerted,” detecting the presence of drugs in Dibrell’s car. The only drugs found in the car were prescription painkillers in various prescription pill bottles, and the appellate court found the alert claim dubious, noting the K-9 was not trained to detect pills.

Dibrell was later convicted of possessing the pills and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Knox County Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Harwell appealed and successfully convinced the appellate court to toss out the case.

USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee in 2015 conducted a probe of racial profiling allegations against Turner and beat partner Officer Richard White while both were assigned to a patrol beat in the inner city.

That investigation showed White admitted on the witness stand he and Turner had their sights set on winning assignment to KPD’s narcotics squad. Both claimed malfunctions of their dashcam during legally crucial moments in their stops of black men over a two-year period.

Records reviewed in the probe showed Turner repeatedly stopped one black man – Brandon Foxx – over a 13-month period for minor violations such as illegal window tint and loud music, only to immediately seek to search him and summon a drug-sniffing dog in case he refused.

Charges against Foxx were dropped in two separate cases filed by Turner, with judges in each ruling Turner violated his constitutional rights.

Records showed Turner and White routinely cited the smell of marijuana smoke as cause for their stops of black men.

In one case, Turner claimed he could smell marijuana smoke coming from a car — from inside his cruiser, a car length behind the motorist. No marijuana was found. In another, Turner insisted he could determine from which apartment marijuana was wafting after saying he smelled it in the parking lot – several yards away from the rows of apartments in the complex.

Police Chief David Rausch defended Turner’s actions in the Foxx case in a USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee interview and described Foxx as a drug dealer with an extensive and violent criminal record. Foxx’s record, however, did not bear that out. Before his interactions with Turner, Foxx’s criminal history consisted of two nonviolent misdemeanors.

Foxx is suing the agency in U.S. District Court. White remains a patrol officer in East Knoxville.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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