Lafayette, Indiana. March 2, 2022. Several community organizations have asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possible Civil Rights violations by officers of the Lafayette Police Department during an incident which occurred on May 9, 2020. During the incident, documented in local and national print and broadcast media, a police officer ordered a canine to attack Richard Bailey, an unarmed Black Lafayette resident, while he was pinned to the ground by police officers. The attack resulted in severe injuries which required Bailey to be put in a medically induced coma for six days and to be hospitalized for an additional five days. He continues to suffer from the physical and psychological effects of the attack.
Bodycam video footage video released by the Lafayette Police Department shows some details of the incident. In the video, police stop Bailey, following up on a complaint about a domestic altercation phoned into 9-11. Bailey, seated on a moped, is ordered to dismount. He asks why he is being detained and does not move or attempt to flee Without responding, two officers then pull Bailey off the moped and pin him to the ground, while a third calls for a canine to attack. The dog bites into Bailey’s neck and is allowed to continue mauling him for a full 30 seconds, while police officers shout at him to put his hands behind his back.
The letter requesting the DOJ to investigate this incident asserts that the police officers violated Bailey’s civil rights protected under the U.S. Constitution by the 4th Amendment, prohibiting “unreasonable searches and seizures” and the 14th Amendment requiring “due process of law” and “equal protection of the laws”.
The letter questions the conclusions of two special prosecutors, assigned to investigate the incident, who concluded there were no criminal violations by Lafayette Police officers. The first special prosecutor based her report solely on an investigation by the Indiana State Police, whereas the second prosecutor did not identify his sources of evidence. Attempts to obtain further details of the work of the special prosecutors via the Indiana Public Records Access Law have been unsuccessful.
The letter to DOJ points to a high rate of police dog bites in Lafayette compared to other cities, as well as a national study that shows that African Americans are disproportionately the victims of police dog bites.
The letter to DOJ was prepared by the Greater Lafayette Committee for Criminal Justice Reform (GLCCJR) a group formed in early 2021, which advocates for “ law enforcement that respects the dignity and civil rights of all individuals, that is not disproportionately applied to people of color and of other minority groups, and that is carried out with maximum transparency with records open to the public.”
Alexcia Plummer, a member of the GLCCJR and a local attorney said: “I am a Black woman living in Lafayette. If it can happen to him [Richard Bailey], it could happen to me. Our community needs to demand oversight and transparency.” Joe Vanable, a retired university professor and another member of the GLCCJR, linked the Bailey incident to national issues: “Although the majority of police officers are doing their job with integrity ‘qualified immunity’ and other policies are making it difficult to deal with the individuals who lack this integrity”. Rodney Lynch, a local pastor and president of the Pastor’s Alliance of
Lafayette said: “Police officers do not have the right to be judge and jury when someone is accused of a crime. We need to make this community one where all bodies and lives do matter and where people are not at risk of being abused by anyone in authority”.
The complete text of the letter to the DOJ can be found here. It is signed by Indiana State Representative Chris Campbell (District 26), Greater Lafayette Committee for Criminal Justice Reform, Greater Lafayette Democratic Socialists of America, Greater Lafayette Indiana Black Expo, Greater Lafayette Indivisible, Pastor’s Alliance of Lafayette, Racial Reconciliation of Greater Lafayette, Showing Up for Racial Justice Greater Lafayette, Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tippecanoe County, Younger Women’s Task Force – Greater Lafayette Chapter.
1001 Ferry Street Lafayette, IN 47901
Frank Rosenthal, firstname.lastname@example.org (765) 463-4705
Alexcia Plummer email@example.com (765) 412-8336
Meredith Richmond firstname.lastname@example.org (765) 409-7586