NAACP asks for change from Petersburg Police after alleged assault

Posted at 10:11 PM, Jul 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-19 00:23:34-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A local chapter of the NAACP reached out to the Petersburg Police Department to ask for change after a Petersburg man alleged he was assaulted by a local police officer in June, as he filmed the officers with his smart phone.

“I have been talking to the officials to see if we could come to some common ground so that these things will not happen again,” said Alzena Mayfield, head of the Petersbug NCAAP.

The cell phone video showed two Petersburg police officers yelling at the person filming, telling them to get inside, and then the camera phone falls to the ground.

When the phone is on the ground it is not clear what events are happening,  but Devin Thomas -- the man who shot the video -- said the officers began beating him.

“I didn't like what I saw on the video, the way they were treated -- it was out of the norm for police officers,” Mayfield said.

While the Petersburg Police Department continues to investigate the incident, Mayfield said she is working with the police chief to improve relations between the community and police.

“My goal is to make sure this community is safe; you don't have to be afraid of the police, and the police don't have to be afraid of us,” Mayfield said.

Thomas first spoke with CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit in June, but now has a lawyer and is no longer talking to the media.

Thomas’s uncle, Miles Owanga did go on camera and said that he is not sure the NCAAP is taking the right approach.

“I'm extremely upset that they would work with the police department,” Owanga said.

Owanga said he wants change and justice.

“There should be disciplinary action against the police department because citizens know that is their practice -- what they did to Devin,” Owanga said.

Thomas faces charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and returns to court in October.

We reached out to the Petersburg Police chief, but a spokesperson said he was not available to talk to us.