The Anniston Star

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September 17, 2014

Activist claims police ignore complaints of harassment

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Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 5:44 pm | Updated: 5:48 pm, Wed May 7, 2014.

A local civil rights activist on Wednesday called for Anniston’s city manager and police chief to step down, citing injustices by police officers, but officials say there is no truth to the claims.

The Rev. Freddy Rimpsey, president of the New Alabama Voters League, held a press conference outside of Anniston City Hall on Wednesday morning, imploring the City Council to fire City Manager Brian Johnson and police Chief Shane Denham for failing to address complaints about police harassment of residents in west Anniston. Johnson and Denham said, however, they have never spoken with Rimpsey, and the chief said he has found no evidence of Rimpsey’s claims of harassment by his officers.

Rimpsey gathered with about a dozen supporters at 10 a.m., alleging two Anniston police officers have repeatedly targeted black residents in west Anniston, stopping them and taking money from them without arresting them. Rimpsey offered no evidence or names of alleged victims. He said residents were afraid to speak out fearing further harassment.

“We’re here this morning because we’re sick and tired of our people being abused by the Anniston Police Department,” Rimpsey said. “The time has come to speak up about this.”

Rimpsey said he has brought these concerns to Johnson and Denham, and had a meeting with the police chief, but said none of his concerns had been addressed. The two officers he alleged were harassing residents are still on the force, he said.

Denham said by phone Wednesday afternoon that he had never spoken with Rimpsey about police harassment.

“I think he is getting his information second-, third-, or fourth-hand,” the chief said.

Denham said he has received complaints relating to harassment in west Anniston, and the Police Department is investigating those claims. He said as of Wednesday, “not one shred of evidence” had been found related to those complaints.

“I support my officers, men and women, 100 percent in everything they do up until they cross the line,” Denham said. “And right now they haven’t crossed that line.”

Denham said as chief he takes complaints seriously, and the department looks into all allegations involving officers’ conduct.

Johnson also dismissed Rimpsey’s claims on Wednesday, telling a reporter he had never had any complaints brought to him about police harassment. He said he had never talked to Rimpsey, and didn’t know who the man was.

“This is literally, completely out of the blue,” Johnson said. “I have never been involved in any meetings or discussions about this.”

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