Former Delaware officer gets no jail time for pulling teen girl’s hair
WILMINGTON, Del. — A former Delaware police corporal who pleaded guilty to repeatedly pulling a 16-year-old girl’s hair and dragging her by the handcuffs while she was on her stomach last year has been sentenced to one year of probation.
New Castle County police released video of the incident on Thursday. Michael Carnevale, whose probation will be suspended upon completion of anger management courses, community service and the surrender of his police training certificate, declined to comment following his sentencing Thursday afternoon.
The two video clips released Thursday show Carnevale dragging the girl from the chain of the handcuffs fastened behind her back. The girl, who was resisting, appears to have fallen before Carnevale started dragging her while she was on her stomach.
A second clip also shows him dragging the girl to a holding room before she dropped to the ground. He was then joined by another officer who helped shove her into the room.
“The actions of Mr. Carnevale seen in the video are not within the policies and procedures of the New Castle County Police and do not reflect the values and standards of the division,” Col. Joseph Bloch, county police chief, said in a statement. “Although I am disgusted that this incident took place, I am pleased that through the hard work of the Department of Justice – Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust and our internal investigators, Mr. Carnevale was held accountable for his actions and will never serve in law enforcement again. “
Carnevale also agreed to never seek employment or serve in a law enforcement capacity in the future.
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“The New Castle County Division of Police prides itself on the relationships we have built within the communities we serve,” Bloch said. “I am hopeful that our immediate response to this incident demonstrates our commitment to holding ourselves accountable and builds upon the public trust that we have established over many years of dedicated service.”
The investigation into Carnevale’s actions began on Aug. 31 after a fellow officer who witnessed the excessive use of force reported it to a commander, county police said.
According to a Delaware Department of Justice release, the incident occurred on Aug. 30 when the girl became disorderly and resistant while she was at the police station.
“The evidence revealed that Carnevale repeatedly pulled and attempted to lift the victim by her hair, and dragged her in a prone position nearly 50 feet along the ground by the chain of the handcuffs fastened behind her back,” the Justice Department’s statement said.
Carnevale, who had been with the department since 2005, completed a single-page crime report detailing a video arraignment, but did not mention any resistance by the victim or any police use of force, the Justice Department said. Carnevale also did not complete a use-of-force report.
Carnevale was suspended pending the outcome of the internal investigation and retired from the police department on Oct. 3 — prior to the end of the department’s investigation and before any disciplinary action could be taken.
The former officer was indicted in December on three misdemeanor charges: offensive touching, official misconduct and falsifying business records.
He pleaded guilty to offensive touching, which carried a maximum sentence of 30 days in prison and a fine. His other charges were dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea, which occurred a few days before his trial was scheduled to start on Monday.
His sentence came immediately after he pleaded guilty on Thursday.
Carnevale’s indictment was among the first of several incidents in which a string of Delaware officers have been charged with crimes while they were on the job.
A few months after Carnevale’s December indictment, the Delaware Department of Justice indicted former Wilmington police officer Samuel Waters with eight crimes, including two felonies: tampering with public records and perjury. Also indicted in March was another former Wilmington officer, Brandon Cooper, who faces charges of sexual solicitation of a child.
“We continue to be proud of the kind of work that the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust is doing with minimal resources,” Mat Marshall, a Justice Department spokesman, said on Thursday. “Above all else, we are thinking of the victim and the victim’s family today.”
‘Really a lack of transparency around these policing issues’
Advocates of police transparency say Carnevale’s case is an example of why Delaware’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, also known as LEOBOR, needs to be revised.
“Certainly we are happy that this incident was investigated, that the officer was indicted and eventually pled guilty to this assault on the 16-year-old young woman,” said Mike Brickner, ACLU of Delaware’s executive director. “But we also know that there is really a lack of transparency around these policing issues that Delaware’s LEOBOR law is the most extreme in the country when it comes to transparency.
“Members of the public just do not have a right to information about police disciplinary matters.”
LEOBOR requires that police disciplinary actions in Delaware be kept secret from public disclosure. In many cases, the public learns of these incidents only from civil lawsuits, in which citizens sue police for causing physical injury or damages.
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It took the public a little over three months to learn about the incident involving Carnevale.
Other states allow for public records requests from regular citizens or watchdog organizations like the ACLU, Brickner said.
“Other jurisdictions that do, especially those that have community oversight boards, they do things like periodically report out data and other statistics, how many police disciplinary cases there have been,” he said. “Again, we just don’t know that information here in Delaware because so much of it is secret and generally law enforcement is not out there proactively sharing that information.”
Delaware lawmakers have proposed revising LEOBOR twice, but their efforts have gone nowhere.
Contact Esteban Parra on Twitter @eparra3.