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Dallas police officer receives 15-day suspension in faulty drug arrest case
An assistant chief handed down a 15-day day suspension on Thursday to a Dallas police officer who wrongly said a man was carrying a bag containing drugs and guns. That man spent 10 months behind bars until a videotape later showed that he was not carrying the bag as the officer alleged.
At issue in the case was whether Senior Cpl. David Nevitt lied or was mistaken. Police investigators ultimately concluded that they could not prove that Nevitt had lied to make the August 2007 arrest of Thomas Hannon outside a north Dallas hotel. Instead, they found that he had failed to fully investigate the incident to the best of his ability.
"The way they went about this arrest was sloppy, and as the allegations alludes to it was not fully investigated," said Assistant Chief Floyd Simpson, who oversees the city's seven patrol stations. "Today, I held officer Nevitt accountable for his actions. His fifteen days will begin immediately."
At the time of Hannon's arrest, Nevitt was a member of a specialized unit whose cases continue to be the subject of an ongoing review by prosecutors. Hannon's arrest sparked the review after prosecutors concluded that he had been arrested on false charges. Felony charges involving arrests made by the unit have since been thrown out against two different men after two witnesses passed polygraph exams requested by prosecutors.
The official police report written by Senior Cpl. Jerry Dodd, now in the vice unit, gives the following account: Nevitt saw Hannon leave the hotel carrying a black leather bag. The officers said Hannon spotted them, dropped the bag and tried to evade them. Police found a loaded .357 Colt revolver and 2.6 grams of methamphetamine in the bag.
In March 2008, as the case neared trial, prosecutors say Nevitt told them that he had been sitting in an undercover vehicle when he saw Hannon leave the hotel holding the bag. They said he told them that he then went inside and watched surveillance video, but that the hotel lacked the technology to make a copy of it.
A defense attorney subsequently obtained a copy. It showed that another man had the bag. Prosecutors then dismissed the charges.
Nevitt told internal investigators that he never told prosecutors that he had actually seen Hannon with the bag. He also described the video footage that he reviewed as being small and of "poor quality," which apparently led to the misidentification....
The squad, which once numbered about seven officers, is now largely dismantled. The unit's supervisor, Sgt. Randy Sundquist was moved off the streets this spring after the DA's office released a letter stating that he shouldn't be trusted to testify in court. Two other officers, one of whom has since retired, also were involuntarily transferred out of the unit.
Scott Palmer, an attorney representing Hannon, called the Police Department's decision disappointing.
"How much false prosecution and perjury will it take before DPD fires an officer?" Palmer said. "But for the hotel engineer saving this video, this officer and all of the officers were prepared to testify falsely about the events, and Mr. Hannon would likely have ended up in prison for a long time."