Parkersburg mayor instituted beatings policy, officer says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell allegedly implemented a policy that encouraged city police officers to severely beat rowdy suspects, according to documents released as part of a lawsuit against the city.Newell told Parkersburg police officers assembled for a meeting on various policy issues that he was tired of "small, frivolous complaints" against the department and apparently directed the officers to use brutal force during clashes with belligerents."He advised the officers to the effect that if they were in a scuffle to 'beat their ass and put them in the hospital,'" according to an account Parkersburg police Officer Nathan R. Deuley gave as part of his lawsuit against the city.Deuley's supervisors placed him on administrative leave after he was involved in an unknown incident that has so far spurred an internal investigation as well as an FBI probe. Deuley also was named as a defendant in two police brutality lawsuits against the Parkersburg department -- both apparently unrelated to the incident he was suspended for.Deuley filed his lawsuit last week, claiming that Newell and Parkersburg Police Chief Joseph Martin have refused to reinstate him as a full-time officer because he acted as a whistleblower on department policies.Newell said Tuesday the filing was an attempt to intimidate city officials into placing Deuley back on staff."This whole thing is just a pressure tactic to put [Deuley] back to work," Newell said of the letter. "He can make all the threats he needs to. That's not going to happen."Both brutality lawsuits were settled out of court. Though he has called for a federal investigation into one of the incidents, Newell has publicly stated that the officers involved did not commit any wrongdoing in the other. John E. Triplett, Deuley's lawyer, sent city officials a letter warning them that Deuley may be forced to release damaging information about department policy if he is questioned under oath.The letter stated that Deuley, along with several other patrolmen, attended a meeting on the city building's second floor.Newell, who is also the former Parkersburg police chief, spent most of the meeting addressing the department's financial policy, but also told the officers at one point to issue beatings to belligerent suspects under the promise that "he would 'handle' the insurance companies," according to the letter."These remarks were consistent with the behavior that officer Deuley observed when he was a young patrolman and under the supervision of now Chief Martin," Triplett wrote in the letter.While chief, Newell also allegedly had a similar policy in place.
"Parkersburg Police doesn't breed p------," Newell allegedly told Deuley, according to the letter.Newell denied the allegations in the letter, adding that the department has a long history of investigating and firing officers found to have breached their authority.
"Any allegation that I condoned any illegal act is contrary to my record here," Newell said.The mayor could not comment on the details of the incident that led to Deuley's administrative leave.In Oct. 2009, Deuley was involved in an incident in which he and two other officers were alleged to have beaten a gay Parkersburg man in his backyard.The officers questioned the man, Timothy Mazza, at his home after another neighbor complained that he was driving down the street too fast.Mazza, apparently fed up with the questioning, attempted to go inside when the officers threw him to the ground, according to one of the police brutality lawsuits filed against the city. One of the officers grabbed his neck and kicked him in the ribs while yelling anti-gay slurs.The city agreed to settle in October for $100,000. Newell said then that the city's insurance company made a "business decision" to settle, but denied that the officers had done anything wrong.
In the second lawsuit alleging police brutality, the city agreed earlier this year to pay Terry Ratliff $70,000 after he claimed to have been assaulted by six officers in 2008.Deuley charged Ratliff with public intoxication after he was found urinating in a public parking lot, according to The Associated Press. A struggle ensued, and Ratliff was allegedly beaten.Ratliff said he was assaulted again at the police station and while he was restrained to a bed at Camden-Clark Medical Center, where he was taken for treatment, according to the AP.On Newell's request, the FBI opened an investigation into the Ratliff incident. He did not know the status of the investigation as of Tuesday.Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.
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