published Friday, October 18th, 2013

Corrupt officers key topic at UTC’s forum in Chattanooga

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Parker speaks Thursday in the Roland Hayes Auditorium at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Parker speaks Thursday in the Roland Hayes Auditorium at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Crooked cops were the talk Thursday evening at UTC’s forum on public corruption.

In the middle of “The Tarnished Badge” — Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephan Parker’s presentation of real-world law enforcement experiences — black-and-white footage showed a 6-foot-plus Memphis transgender woman struck in the face repeatedly by an officer.

The first time Officer Bridges McRae struck the woman, who preferred to be called Duanna, audience members reacted. Then McRae hit her again. And again. McRae refused to use the name Duanna when addressing the woman, and she refused to cooperate.

So McRae struck her head repeatedly in frustration, Parker said.

Parker now works as an assistant U.S. attorney in Louisiana but worked at the district attorney’s office in Memphis for years, and at the time of McCrae’s incident.

“We didn’t prosecute him, but he lost his career,” Parker said.

It isn’t the standard definition of civil rights protection in America, which prompts memories of the 1960s and segregation among blacks and whites and even the gay equality debate of today.

But Parker said civil rights violations can include many things, including being physically and sexually assaulted at the hands of a government official, like Duanna was. Knowing those rights and reporting their violation can put corrupt officer and officials behind bars, Parker said.

“This is not what you think of as civil rights, right?” Parker said.

Dr. Roger Thompson, associate professor of criminal justice at UTC, said after Parker’s presentation that the goal is to have important, potentially sensitive conversations about things like police corruption and civil rights violations.

He said having that conversation at a university was important because it is “neutral” ground, where potential negative opinions of police can be voiced and hopefully balanced by people like Parker, who have made a career out of prosecuting crooked cops.

“This is a topic that, for the most part, is not in a text book,” Thompson said. “A person like this is not someone you meet everyday.”

Parker spoke to area police earlier in the day, and did not comment on Chattanooga’s current legal battle over the fates of ex-Officers Adam Cooley and Sean Emmer Thursday evening.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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