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12/4/2007
Police Held Accountable for Crimes Against Motorists
Individual police officers in Georgia, Mississippi and Texas have been held accountable for crimes against motorists.

Douglas DamianoIn a number of recent cases across the country, individual police officers are being held accountable for crimes committed against motorists. In Georgia, Mississippi and Texas, the law enforcement officials responsible have been caught and face punishment for abusing the public trust. In Jeffersontown, Kentucky, however, a police officer faced minimal sanction for damaging the property of another driver.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrested a Jones County Sheriff's Office auxiliary deputy on November 27 for stealing from motorists. Robert Dreading faces robbery charge for allegedly pulling over Hispanic motorists and keeping their money, the Laurel Leader-Call newspaper reported. In August, Cedartown, Georgia Police Officer Douglas Damiano, 38, was sentenced to two years and three months in federal prison for a similar scheme of robbing Hispanics during traffic stops. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation set up a sting operation in which an undercover sheriff's deputy posed as an ordinary motorist. Damiano pulled the undercover officer over and took $100 from him.

"This defendant used his badge to steal money from Hispanic motorists, thinking that they would never dare to come forward and challenge him," United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said in a statement. "His corruption is an unfortunate exception to the professionalism of most police officers."

Damiano is being held in a low-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia with a scheduled release date of July 24, 2009.

In Houston, Texas a police officer was caught taking advantage of motorists in a different way. A grand jury on November 27 sentenced a Houston Police Department traffic officer to five years in jail for lying to a grand jury and one year in jail for pulling over a 23-year-old woman, following her home, and making inappropriate sexual advances. J. Eric Matamoros, 30, pleaded guilty to the charges but can be out on parole within eighteen months, the Houston Chronicle reported.

In Jeffersontown, Kentucky a police officer was allowed to resign on November 24 after causing a hit-and-run accident in his police car on September 30. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Christopher Price allegedly was distracted by a cell phone conversation when his slammed his police car into a parked pickup truck and drove away. Local police declined to file charges or even issue a traffic ticket to Price. Instead, the department put him on unpaid suspension on October 4. By not firing Price, he has a better chance of landing another job in law enforcement. The force also looked the other way in 2002 after Price was sentenced to 30 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to making threats against an employee of the O'Malley's Corner club in 2002.




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