WB Police Advisory Committee to review racial-profiling complaint by chairwoman

Aug. 24—WILKES-BARRE — The first complaint to be reviewed by the city's Police Advisory Committee will be from its chairwoman, who said her traffic stop on Aug. 13 was a case of racial profiling.

Darlene Duggins-Magdalinski, who is Black, filed a complaint on Aug. 17 that's being investigated by the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department. Upon completion the report, along with video from the body-worn cameras of officers including Dan Duffy, who made the stop, will be provided to the Committee, minus Magdalinski, for a recommendation on a course of action by Mayor George Brown and Police Chief Joseph Coffay.

Duggins-Magdalinski, 53, of Hanover Township, accused Duffy, who is white, of mistreating her after pulling over her car without probable cause.

"I believe he saw that it was a Mercedez Benz. He saw that it was tinted windows and it was Black people ... driving the vehicle," Duggins-Magdalinski said Tuesday.

In her complaint that was provided to the Times Leader, Duggins-Magdalinski said, "Duffy displayed appalling disruptive conduct as an officer which included bad 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 daugher 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 informed her a license plate reader in use by the officer picked up violations. She said she attempted to explain there was mix-up and her insurance and registration were valid, but she could not download an app on her phone to show proof to Duffy. The officer called for a tow truck to impound the car, removed the license plate with a screwdriver and told them to find a way home, she 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 had she known about the suspended license.

Duffy could have easily told her there was a problem with the registration and insurance, Duggins-Magdalinski said. But he didn't and the situation got heated after he learned she was on the Committee, she said.

"It did not have to escalate to how it escalated," Duggins-Magdalinski said. "It's not what he did, it was how he did it. And that's whether it been me or whether it been a resident of the city of Wilkes-Barre. You treat people, again, with dignity. You treat them with respect and he did not do that to me on that scene."

At the time of the stop Magdalinski called Brown to complain about her treatment by Duffy.

"I feel he should not have a job," Duggins-Magdalinski said of Duffy. "I just felt like he was abusing his power," she continued, alleging Duffy took pleasure in what he was doing and pushed her. "You'll see it on the body cam."

The union representing Duffy also relied on the video from the body cameras in its support of the officer. Wilkes-Barre City Police Benevolent Association President Officer Joe Homza Jr. said it should be released "in the name of transparency which is the whole premise of the Police Advisory Committee in the first place."

"Let it speak for itself," Homza said.

But Brown Monday said it won't be made public. "I can review that with the Police Advisory Committee. I can't give it to anyone," he said.

Brown confirmed that he received a call from Duggins-Magdalinski after the stop telling him she was filing a complaint against Duffy. Brown said Magdalinski will be treated like any other citizen who files a complaint, but to date none have.

"This is the first complaint we've had since the Advisory Committee was put together," Brown said. He created and appointed seven people to the volunteer group in 2020 to provide oversight of the police department. City Council did not advance an ordinance to establish a Citizen Police Review Board with subpoena power to investigate alleged misconduct. Current Council Chairwoman Beth Gilbert McBride proposed the measure that raised concerns with the police union.

Brown, who along with Coffay sits on the Committee as an adviser with no voting rights, explained a lieutenant within the department will conduct a formal investigation into the complaint and issue a report that will be provided to the Committee.

Brown said the Committee is down to four members, but still functioning. He said residents interested in serving on the Committee must fill out an application that will be forwarded to him for review and subsequent appointment.

Duggins-Magdalinski said the Committee members were supposed to hold a meet and greet with the police department and accompany officers on ride-alongs during their shifts. But her encounter with Duffy gave her all she needed to know about how he interacts with the public, she said.

"I am a social worker and I am therapist, but I'm an activist first. And that's what we're taught. We about social change and we about, you know, putting it out there and letting the community know that, you know, it's about treating people fair, justice, equality," Duggins-Magdalinski said. "And that is not what I got at that scene. That's not what I got at that scene. What I got is, 'I'm in control and you gonna 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 Justice Rick Cronauer on Sept. 7.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.