A lawsuit was filed against the Town of Smyrna and a Smyrna Police officer Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware for the arrest of a man the ACLU claims simply went to the aid of a homeless being attacked by a group of teenagers.
The lawsuit states Smyrna resident Ronald Miles was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct by Smyrna Police following the August 2013 incident.
Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten said neither the Smyrna Police Department nor Smyrna Town Hall staff has been served paperwork.
“Until we get the paperwork, know exactly what happened and investigate it, I can’t comment on it,” Masten said.
The lawsuit claims Miles was walking in August 2013 with a friend when he saw a group of teenage boys physically attacking a homeless man in an alley. Miles approached the teens in an attempt to stop the attack and in turn was attacked, suffering a broken wrist, a shoulder injury and cuts. When the police arrived, Miles suggested the officers pursue the teens, who were leaving the scene in a car. At that time, the lawsuit alleges Smyrna Police Officer Brien Street responded by saying, “Don’t tell me how to do my f***ing job.” To which Miles responded, “This is bullsh*t.”
Miles repeated the sentiment as he walked away, which is when Officer Street arrested Miles and charged him with disorderly conduct. The lawsuit claims none of the other officers at the time did anything to intervene; no one read Miles his Miranda rights.
ACLU-DE Legal Director Richard Morse said in a statement that the actions of Street violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Street did not have probable cause to arrest Miles,” Morse said. “Merely cursing at a police officer is not against the law. This was an unreasonable seizure and the deprivation of liberty without due process of law.”
The ACLU press release states the charges against Miles were voluntarily dismissed several months after the arrest.
“A primary goal of this lawsuit is to ask the court to order the Smyrna Police Department to vastly improve their training, supervision and internal review procedures,” said ACLU-DE Executive Director Kathleen MacRae. “Individual officers cannot be permitted to abuse their authority and police departments must hold them accountable when they do so.”
The suit also asks the court to award compensatory damages to Miles and for payment of attorney’s fees.