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New London to pay $25,000 to settle lawsuit against police

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published September 10. 2013 4:00AM
City says deal with man is not admission of wrongdoing by officers

New London - A man who sued the city and two police officers in 2010 after he said he was strip-searched by police in the back room of a Radio Shack at the New London Shopping Center will receive $25,000 from the city.

The City Council has approved the payment to Brandon Mitchell, who brought a civil lawsuit against the city and Officers Matthew Galante and Todd Lynch alleging false imprisonment, emotional distress and assault and battery.

The settlement, signed by Mitchell in August and approved by the City Council last week, releases the city and the officers from any further claims by Mitchell. The city also maintains the settlement is not an admission of any wrongdoing. It also includes a confidentiality clause.

In May 2009, Mitchell alleged he was pulled over in the shopping center parking lot, ordered out of the car at gunpoint and handcuffed. He said he was taken into Radio Shack where the police pulled off his shorts and underwear, searching for drugs. No drugs were found.

Mitchell, who was 29 at the time, suffered mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, mortification, shame, fear, damage to his reputation and emotional distress, according the lawsuit.

In an internal police report on the incident, police said they the received a tip that Mitchell, perhaps driving his girlfriend's Chevy Blazer, would be conducting a drug deal in the New London Shopping Center parking lot.

Once pulled over, police checked Mitchell for weapons, and with the assistance of a drug-sniffing dog searched the car for drugs. They found nothing. But Mitchell was wearing three pairs of shorts, according to the police report, and the officers took him into the store to search him there rather than make him take his pants off in the parking lot.

Once in the back room, the officers said Mitchell proceeded to take off the shorts and the police checked the pockets. Then, according to the officers' accounts, "Mitchell bent over and pulled his boxers from his backside." Lynch and Galante said they told him to pull his underwear back up.

Mitchell was not arrested. He filed a police misconduct complaint the same day.

The internal police investigation pointed to a "vast difference between the victim's claim of the cavity search and the statements of the officers present," leading to a finding of "insufficient evidence to prove either the guilt or innocence of the officers involved."

At the time, Police Chief Margaret Ackley called the incident "poor police work," that left the officers vulnerable to the charges that followed. But she agreed that it did not violate any specific police policies.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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