Friday, August 27, 2004

Newport cop driven home after DUI stop


He's under investigation

By Natalie Morales
Enquirer staff writer

A Newport police officer is under investigation by his department after Fort Thomas police stopped him for suspected drunken driving, and then allowed him to be driven home without charges being filed.

Newport officer Mark Crank was stopped at 1:23 a.m. Aug. 10 on the Interstate 471 ramp to I-275 west. A Fort Thomas police video shows Crank repeatedly refusing to take a field sobriety test and being uncooperative.

"You were all over the road, sir, OK?" Fort Thomas police officer Adam Brown said to Crank in a video recorded by his cruiser's dashboard camera. "I mean you almost wrecked this car three times while I was following you. In fact, at one point you were just an inch from going off the road back there."

Fort Thomas police said they allowed Crank's sergeant, whose name was not available, to drive him home almost an hour after the stop.

Brown stopped Crank in a personal vehicle after the car weaved to the left several times on I-471, said Lt. Mark Dill, Fort Thomas police spokesman.

During the conversation with Brown, Crank suggested he had only "a couple" of drinks. He said he had just left a Newport bar.

The 50-minute video recorded numerous exchanges between Brown and Crank during the stop. Fort Thomas police released the video Thursday.

"You've not just had a little bit to drink tonight," Brown said at one point. "Your speech is extremely slurred. You're having problems standing there. You almost wrecked your car several times."

Crank disputed Brown's claims, saying his speech was not slurred and he was not having trouble standing.

The grainy video shows Crank's repeated refusal to comply with a sobriety check, saying, "Why are you standing there doing this to me?"

Responded Brown: "Because you reek of alcohol. Because you are having problems standing here."

Brown also told Crank he was putting a fellow officer in an uncomfortable position.

"The bottom line is you are a DUI. There's no question about it. You know it, and I know it. There's no question about it.

"You have put me in a horrible situation tonight. One that I pray you never find yourself in. I am faced with a moral dilemma."

He told Crank he was obligated to treat him like anyone else. Brown asked him what he would do.

Crank replied that in such a situation he would make sure the officer had a way home.

Brown and his sergeant, Todd Dedman, who joined him at the scene, have received counseling as a result of the incident and will not face additional disciplinary action, Dill said.

Police are allowed discretion in whether to arrest a suspect, Dill said.

"What we should do and the right thing to do and the moral thing to do is treat him like anyone else - but it will stir up a hornet's nest," Dedman said in the video.

Newport police Capt. Phil Liles, spokesman for the department, said Newport police are investigating Crank's behavior during the traffic stop.

He will not face criminal charges, both Liles and Fort Thomas police said.

Crank has had no disciplinary actions in his 11 years with the department, Liles said.

Crank was one of three Newport police officers named in a federal civil rights lawsuit in 1996 claiming the officers, who were off duty at the time, pointed guns at two Northern Kentucky University students during a confrontation on Garrard Street in Covington. The suit was settled out of court in May 1998 with the city paying undisclosed damages.

Bill Weathers contributed to this report. E-mail nmorales@enquirer.com




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