Aug. 24—WILKES-BARRE — The first complaint to be reviewed by the city’s Police Advisory Commission will be from its chairman, who said her Aug. 13 traffic stop was a case of racial profiling.
Darlene Duggins-Magdalinski, who is Black, filed a complaint Aug. 17, which is being investigated by the Wilkes-Barre Police Department. After the report is complete, along with body-worn camera footage of officers including Dan Duffy, who made the stop, it will be provided to the Commission, minus Magdalinski, for a recommendation on a course of action by Mayor George Brown and Chief of the police. Joseph Coffey.
Duggins-Magdalinski, 53, of Hanover Township, accused Duffy, who is white, of abusing her after pulling over her car without probable cause.
“I think he saw it was a Mercedez Benz. He saw it was tinted windows and it was black people … driving the vehicle,” Duggins-Magdalinski said Tuesday.
In her complaint filed with the Times-Leader, Duggins-Magdalinski said, “Duffy engaged in abhorrent disruptive behavior as an officer that involved malicious intent … which turned into racial profiling (when I did not commit a crime).
The front windows of the car were down, but the windows in the back where Duggins-Magdalinski was sitting with her grandson were up. She said her daughter Fa’tirah Duggins was driving and Duffy initiated the stop near the Turkey Hill Convenience Store at the intersection of South Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and Hazle Street.
Duggins-Magdalinski said Duffy tipped her off to a license plate reader used by the officer who found violations. She said she tried to explain there was a mix-up and that her insurance and registration were valid, but she couldn’t download an app on her phone to show Duffy proof. The officer called a tow truck to impound the car, removed the license plate with a screwdriver and told them to find a way home, he said.
The car was towed to her residence on Lee Park Avenue, where it remains parked. Her daughter also remained in custody after a records check done at the scene showed she had a suspended license and an outstanding warrant for her arrest, Duggins-Magdalinski said. Duggins-Magdalinski said she would not have let her daughter drive if she had known about the suspended license.
Duffy could have easily told her there was a problem with enrollment and insurance, Duggins-Magdalinski said. But he didn’t, and the situation heated up after he learned he was on the Commission, he said.
“It shouldn’t have escalated the way it did,” Duggins-Magdalinski said. “It’s not what he did, it’s how he did it. And that’s whether it was me or a resident of the city of Wilkes-Barre. You treat people, again, with dignity. You treat them with respect and he didn’t do that to me in that scene ».
At the time of the stop Magdalinski called Brown to complain about Duffy’s treatment of her.
“I feel like he shouldn’t have a job,” Duggins-Magdalinski said of Duffy. “I just felt like he was abusing his power,” she continued, claiming that Duffy enjoyed what he was doing and pushed her. “You’ll see it on the body cam.”
The union representing Duffy also relied on the body camera footage in its support of the officer. Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association President Officer Joe Homza Jr. said it should be released “in the name of transparency which is the principle of the Police Advisory Board in the first place.”
“Let it speak for itself,” Homza said.
But Brown Monday said it would not be made public. “I can look it up with the Police Advisory Board. I can’t give it to anybody,” he said.
Brown confirmed he received a call from Duggins-Magdalinski after the break telling him she was filing a complaint against Duffy. Brown said Magdalinski would be treated like any other citizen who files a complaint, but to date no one has.
“This is the first complaint we’ve had since the Advisory Board was formed,” Brown said. Created and appointed seven people to the volunteer team in 2020 to oversee the police department. The City Council did not pass an ordinance establishing a Citizen’s Police Review Committee with subpoena power to investigate alleged misconduct. Current Council President Beth Gilbert McBride proposed the measure, which raised concerns among the police union.
Brown, who along with Coffay sits on the Commission as a non-voting consultant, explained that a lieutenant within the department will conduct a formal investigation into the complaint and issue a report that will be provided to the Commission.
Brown said the Commission has been reduced to four members, but is still functioning. He said residents interested in serving on the Commission should fill out an application that will be sent to him for review and subsequent appointment.
Duggins-Magdalinski said Commission members were required to meet and greet with the police department and accompany officers during their shifts. But meeting Duffy gave her everything she needed to know about how he interacts with the public, she said.
“I’m a social worker and I’m a therapist, but I’m an activist first. And that’s what they teach us. We’re about social change and, you know, putting it out there and letting the community know, you know, it’s about treating people fairly, justice, equality,” Duggins-Magdalinski said. “And that’s not what I got in that scene. That’s not what I got in that scene. What I got is, “I’m in control and you’re going to do what I tell you to do.” That’s what I got.”
Duggins-Magdalinski pleaded not guilty to the traffic citations and has a summary trial before District Judge Rick Cronauer on Sept. 7.
Contact Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.