The Alabama Justice Project has obtained documents that reveal a Dothan Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation was covered up by the district attorney. A group of up to a dozen police officers on a specialized narcotics team were found to have planted drugs and weapons on young black men for years. They were supervised at the time by Lt. Steve Parrish, current Dothan Police Chief, and Sgt. Andy Hughes, current Asst. Director of Homeland Security for the State of Alabama. All of the officers reportedly were members of a Neoconfederate organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center labels “racial extremists.” The group has advocated for blacks to return to Africa, published that the civil rights movement is really a Jewish conspiracy, and that blacks have lower IQ’s . Both Parrish and Hughes held leadership positions in the group and are pictured above holding a confederate battle flag at one of the club’s secret meetings.The documents shared reveal that the internal affairs investigation was covered up to protect the aforementioned officers’ law enforcement careers and keep them from being criminally prosecuted.Several long term Dothan law enforcement officers, all part of an original group that initiated the investigation, believe the public has a right to know that the Dothan Police Department, and District Attorney Doug Valeska, targeted young black men by planting drugs and weapons on them over a decade. Most of the young men were prosecuted, many sentenced to prison, and some are still in prison. Many of the officers involved were subsequently promoted and are in leadership positions in law enforcement.
- According to the Equal Justice Initiative, from 2006 to 2010, prosecutors from Houston County used preemptory strikes to exclude 82 percent of black jurors from death penalty cases.
- Because of those challenges, every single death penalty case in Houston County over that period had an all-white jury or a jury with a single black juror. Houston County is 27 percent black.
- Valeska’s office has had several cases overturned by appeals courts due to the systematic exclusion of blacks from juries. He has also had verdicts overturned due to illegal evidence and improper comments to juries.
- Despite a population of just 103,000, Houston County has sent 17 people to death row, a staggering rate that leads the state and, as best I can tell, is the highest rate in the nation among counties with three or more death sentences — by quite a bit.
- In June, federal district court judge Myron Thompson refused to throw out a racial discrimination suit by longtime Dothan police officer Keith Gray. In that suit Thompson noted that Parrish was not only a member of a group called “Sons of the Confederacy,” he named his own son after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan. Parrish, who again is currently the Dothan police chief, recently confirmed his membership in Sons of the Confederacy to the Dothan Eagle. “I am a history enthusiast,” Parrish told the paper. “My ancestors fought for the South during the Civil War, and I’m proud of it.” Dothan is 30 percent black.
- Gray’s suit alleges numerous incidents of Dothan officers using racial slurs and incidents of racial bigotry.
- His suit further alleges harassment and mistreatment of minority citizens, including at least one incident in which a young black man was arrested on what Gray deemed to be “trumped up charges.”