WILKES-BARRE — The first complaint the city’s Police Advisory Committee will hear will be from its chairwoman, who said her Aug. 13 traffic stop was a case of racial profiling.
Darlene Duggins-Magdalinski, who is Black, filed a complaint Aug. 17 that is being investigated by the Wilkes-Barre Police Department. Once complete, the report, along with body camera video from the officers, including Dan Duffy, who made the stop, will be released to Committeewith the exception of Magdolinski, for recommendations on a course of action by Mayor George Brown and Police Chief Joseph Coffey.
Duggins-Magdalinski, 53, of Hanover Township, accused Duffy, who is white, of assaulting her after he stopped her car without reason.
“I believe he saw it was a Mercedez Benz. He saw that the windows were tinted and black people were driving the car,” Duggins-Magdalinsky said Tuesday.
In her complaint, provided to the Times Leader, Duggins-Magdalinsky said, “Duffy as an officer displayed horrific disruptive behavior that included bad intentions … that escalated into racial profiling (when I wasn’t committing a crime).”
The car’s front windows were down, but the rear windows, where Duggins-Magdalinski was sitting with her grandson, were up. She said her daughter, Fa’tira Duggins, was driving and Duffy stopped near the Turkey Hill convenience store at the intersection of South Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and Hazel Street.
Duggins-Magdalinski said Duffy told her about the license plate reader the officer was using when he discovered the violations. She said she tried to explain there was a mix-up, her insurance and registration were valid, but she couldn’t download the app on her phone to show Duffy the proof. The officer called a tow truck to impound the car, removed the license plate with a screwdriver and told them to find their way home, she said.
The car was towed to her home on Lee Park Avenue, where it remains parked. Her daughter also remained in custody after a records check conducted at the scene showed she had a suspended license and an outstanding warrant for her arrest, Duggins-Magdalinsky said. Duggins-Magdalinski said she would not have allowed her daughter to drive if she had known about the suspension.
Duffy could have easily told her there were problems with registration and insurance, Duggins-Magdalinsky said. But he did not, and the situation escalated after he found out she was on the Committee, she said.
“It shouldn’t have escalated before it did,” Duggins-Magdalinski said. “It’s not about what he did, it’s about how he did it. And it’s either 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 on that stage.”
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-Magdalinsky said of Duffy. “I just felt like he was abusing his power,” she continued, claiming Duffy was enjoying what he was doing and pushing her. “You’ll see it on the body camera.”
The union representing Duffy also relied on body camera video in support of the officer. The president of the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, Officer Joe Homza Jr., said it needed to be released “in the name of transparency, which is the premise of the Police Advisory Committee 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 Committee. I can’t give it to anyone,” he said.
Brown confirmed that after the stop, Duggins-Magdalinski called him to say 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 our first complaint since the Advisory Committee was formed,” Brown said. He created and appointed seven people in 2020 to a volunteer unit to provide oversight of the Police Department. The City Council did not issue a resolution on the creation of the Civilian Police Monitoring Commission with the right to be summoned to court to investigate alleged violations. Current Council President Beth Gilbert McBride proposed the measure, which raised concerns from the police union.
Brown, who sits on the committee with Coffey in a non-voting advisory capacity, explained that a department lieutenant will conduct a formal investigation into the complaint and issue a report that will be presented to the committee.
Brown said that the Committee to four members, but still functioning. He said residents interested in serving on the committee should fill out an application that will be forwarded to him for review and subsequent appointment.
Duggins-Magdalinski said committee members were expected to host a meet and greet with the police department and escort officers on walks during their shift. But her meeting with Duffy gave her everything she needed to know about how he interacts with the public, she said.
“I am both a social worker and a therapist, but above all I am an activist. And this is what they teach us. We’re about social change, and we’re about, you know, putting that out there and letting the community know that, you know, it’s about treating people fairly, fairly, equitably,” Duggins-Magdalinsky said. “And that’s not what I got in that scene. That’s not what I got in this scene. What I got was, “I’m in control, and you’ll do what I tell you.” That’s what I got.’
Duggins-Magdalinski pleaded not guilty to the traffic charge and is scheduled for a summary trial Sept. 7 before District Judge Rick Kronauer.
Contact Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.