Dunwoody police settle civil rights lawsuits for $117,000

The lawyer for a man who settled a civil rights lawsuit with Dunwoody police this week said he had to fight to get the records of complaints against the department.

“It took us more than a year of kicking and screaming, getting records from these people to find out,” Jermaine Muhammad’s lawyer, Mark Bullman, told Channel 2 Action News. “We have a three-inch-thick binder of complaints that we know about.”

The series of events began in 2013 when Muhammad was trying to pick up supplies for his barbershop, Channel 2 reported. He was pulled over about a cracked windshield, but that eventually led to questions about weapons and drugs.

“It was a feeling of humiliation,” Muhammad said. “I knew something about the stop wasn’t right.”

Muhammad said Officer Dale Laskowski immediately asked him if he had weapons or drugs in his truck, Channel 2 reported. Muhammad said he didn’t, but Laskowski brought out a police dog. The dog searched the truck for nearly an hour. Nothing was found.

As a result, Muhammad filed a complaint and a lawsuit. Two unrelated cases were also filed against Dunwoody police, each questioning searches and the use of police dogs during traffic stops.

“We started learning where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Muhammad told Channel 2. “We started peeling back the layers on the onion and realizing this wasn’t an isolated incident.”

They settled this week for a combined $117,000.

Since then, Dunwoody police changed its policy “to require a supervisory approval for any request for a K-9 and required the use of a K-9 to be documented with an Incident Report,” Dunwoody police Chief Billy Grogan told Channel 2. Laskowski is still employed by the department.

“It’s wonderful that they changed their policy,” Bullman said. “I give the chief, the department and city a lot of credit for stepping up and realizing something had to be done.”