Law enforcement employees are those we rely the most when it comes to public safety. Police officers, sheriff deputies and other law enforcement agencies employees must provide unbiased service to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or age.
Unfortunately, law enforcement sometimes also end up being involved in different kinds of incidents, both on and off-duty.
In a verdict that has sparked community debate on police conduct and accountability, Sheffield Police Lt. M. Dotson of Alabama, already embroiled in legal proceedings for his role in a 2021 police dog attack on a Black individual, has been convicted and sentenced to two years in jail for the assault of another Black man.
According to a report from Alabama Political Reporter, Lt. Dotson was found guilty of third-degree assault, menacing, and reckless endangerment stemming from an incident that occurred in December 2022 involving the victim, D. Key. The sentencing was handed down late in July, committing Dotson to the Lauderdale County Detention Center.
Court records detail the violence of the episode. Lt. Dotson, reportedly off-duty at the time, is stated to have struck Key multiple times in the face and mouth in a liquor store. In a particularly chilling moment, the documents highlight that Dotson pointed a firearm at Key, emphasizing the severity and personal nature of the assault.
But this incident was not Dotson’s first Black-man incident in recent history which adds additional weight and pressure to the whole case. He is one of ten defendants in a federal lawsuit connected to the police dog attack of M. L. in June 2021. This particularly harrowing incident saw police officers and Colbert County sheriff’s deputies tackle the unarmed victim on his front porch, even though evidence confirms that he had not committed any crime.
A deeply disturbing aspect of this incident was captured on body camera footage. SPD Sgt. Nick Risner, now deceased following an unrelated shooting incident in October 2021, can be heard ordering his K-9 to attack the victim while he was restrained. The footage, which includes Long’s desperate cries for assistance, spread like wildfire on social media platforms, going viral last month.
The weight of these events is not lost on civil rights attorneys Harry Daniels and Roderick Van Daniel, who are representing both victims in their pursuit of justice. Following Dotson’s conviction, they released a statement:
“Let’s be clear. On December 28, Lt. Dotson struck Demarcus Key multiple times in the face, bloodying his nose and mouth, and threatened him with a gun. But Lt. Dotson didn’t get arrested that night. Demarcus Key did. That’s the same kind of brutality and miscarriage of justice we saw when Lt. Dotson and his fellow officers accosted Marvin Long while he was unarmed on his own porch, assaulted him, sicced a police dog on him and, to cover their own crimes, arrested him. Yes, we’re pleased that Lt. Dotson has been convicted. But he isn’t the bad apple. This is a bad tree. Between the Sheffield Police Department and Colbert County Sheriff’s Office, this is a bad orchard and it’s time we did something about it.”
Alabama Political Reporter also learned Sheffield Police Chief Ricky Terry has filed paperwork to terminate Dotson.