Friday, March 02, 2012 • 8:41 AM Comments (6)

Asher Conviction Offers a "Glimmer of Hope"

posted by Maureen Turner

Earlier this week, former Springfield cop Jeffrey Asher was convicted of assault and battery, resulting from his beating, with a flashlight, of Melvin Jones III during a 2009 traffic stop. Asher and his supporters, including the police union, say he was acting in self-defense after Jones, a man with a lengthy criminal record, tried to grab an officer’s gun.

Later this month, Asher will be back in court for sentencing—and the Springfield NAACP is urging the judge to take into consideration Asher’s extremely troubled history, and its effects on residents, when she decides just what kind of punishment to hand down.

In a Feb. 29 letter to Judge Maureen Walsh of the Holyoke District Court, the Rev. Talbert Swan II, president of Springfield’s NAACP branch, called Asher “a scourge on our community.”

“Our community has known Jeffrey Asher as an abuser of police power for well over a decade,” Swan wrote. “While he has not been criminally charged for his antics in the past, his name has become synonymous with police brutality and misconduct. … The fact that many of the victims of his abuse throughout the years have been black and Latino has only exacerbated an already tenuous relationship between communities of color and the police department.”

Swan also noted that Asher’s “conduct as a rogue police officer has cost the city of Springfield hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements, not counting legal fees.”

Asher first came to public attention in 1997, when he was caught on videotape kicking a black suspect named Roy Parker. Asher was charged with assault and battery in that case; while he was eventually cleared of the criminal charges, he was suspended for one year by the Police Commission and ordered to undergo “sensitivity training.” Asher’s suspension was reduced to six months by a labor arbitrator, with Asher receiving $20,000 in back pay.

In 2004, Asher was among a group of cops accused of beating another black man, Douglas Greer, after finding him apparently unconscious in his car after suffering what Greer said was a diabetic seizure. While the officers were cleared by the Police Commission, Greer, the principal at a Springfield charter school, went on to sue the city and won an $180,000 settlement.

Swan began his letter to Walsh with praise for “the excellent job that most Springfield Police Department officers do,” but noted that “too many Springfield citizens have experience unjust targeting, humiliation, loss of physical freedom, and even physical harm at the hands of a relatively few Springfield Police officers.”

Asher’s conviction, Swan wrote, creates an important opportunity to restore the faith many have lost in the SPD. “His conviction provides a glimmer of hope regarding a criminal justice system that has, far too often, meted out justice in a manner that has neither been fair nor equitable. His sentencing may well determine whether or not that glimmer of hope is extinguished.”

Comments (6)
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Hello Maureen,

If you ever get the opportunity, please write an artical about Talbert Swan's views on gay people. In response to the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on the right for gay couples to marry, his words to describe this was "offensive and insidious". He even went as far to say about gay rights "the gay lobby continuing to contradict itself by encouraging others to preach tolerance while being intolerants of anyone who dares to oppose it". Or how about when he said that "homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle". And in an associated press article in response to gay marriage in massachusetts

The Rev. Talbert Swan II of Solid Rock Church of God in Christ in Springfield said homosexuality is contrary to God's law, and said he'll urge his congregants to lobby hard against gay marriage, even if they're called bigoted because they aren't politically correct. "We can't be afraid to be labeled as such, if were know we're standing on the truth," he said. "God's word is to be held to a higher standard than man's law."

My point I am making, please don't go get quotes from a bigot who is calling others bigots. Quoting Swan makes me feel that this process may have been politicized with Asher. I think Asher should be fired, but this whole thing is a little silly. The same people saying this is a race issue, think that other people should live as second class citizens.

Is there a reporter left on earth that does their homework? Or are they just as bad as the people they interview?

Posted by Resident1 on 3.2.12 at 11:00

Hi Resident1-

If I were writing a profile of Rev. Swan, then I would agree with you that part of my "homework" would involve addressing what feels to you (and me, and probably a lot of other people) like a troubling contradiction in his views about equality. But I don't think that Rev. Swan's having a position on marriage equality that I might disagree with makes his positions on racism and police abuse of power invalid, or that it should cause me not to report on a public letter he wrote in his role as president of a group as culturally significant as the NAACP.

I certainly welcome readers' writing letters or posting comments adding to the debate, as you did. But I don't think my job is to decide that Rev. Swan (who's been working on issues of police/community relations for probably 20 years) and the NAACP shouldn't get coverage because I might disagree with him on another issue.

Posted by M. Turner on 3.2.12 at 12:49

I just think the contradictions are glaring and that someone like swan should not be able to stand in a position of leadership. my criticism is not of the NAACP or racism, I see racism and homophobia the same thing.

I think using Swan as a source of information for your story made this into a race issue, which it was not. The issue was assault and battery and yes police abuse. But it is well known in other communitites of color, white is a color as well, that Asher did not discriminate when using force. When he was assigned to East Forest Park section at night, the community complained of him kicking the crap out their teenage children. Asher being off the police force is a good thing.

Again, this issue was a matter of law, not race. The DA felt the law was broken and so he prosecuted Asher. The problem again with the article is using Swan in this article doesn't make sense. Why not the DA's office?

Swan has even said in the past that God's law is above man's law. I see problems with that, this country is a country of laws, not god. He operates under different laws than the rest of us.

Pastor Swan is openly hostile to the GLBT community. Openly hostile. His words hurt people and encourage others to commit crimes, life threatening crimes, against this community. And from what I understand in the black community it is even worse to be black and gay, not because of white people, but because of black on black crimes, encouraged by there leaders.

You take great interest in writing about politicians, businesses and others that you perceive as doing wrong. Well Pastor Swan is now in a position of leadership, encouraging others to discriminate against GLBT people. Will you or anyone ever confront his glaring hypocrisy? Or will you let him continue to do wrong?

I know it probably isn't politically expedient and might sully the reputation of the NAACP, but the NAACP should come under the same scrutiny as other people and organizations.

I for one am scared of people like Pastor Swan. Asher might do violence himself, Swan encourages it.

Posted by Resident1 on 3.3.12 at 11:18

Maureen,

Below is a link is sort of a library of hate crimes committed against LGBT people. Maybe you can ask Pastor Swan if he thinks his words of encouragement are somehow different then Ashers violence:

http://www.queerty.com/tag/gay-bashing/

You may roll your eyes, but the GLBT community will continue to live in fear as long as people like Swan of the pulpit.

Posted by Resident1 on 3.3.12 at 11:29

Then of course there's the flip-side: I have no problem at all with Asher unleashing on a scumbag like Jones, while I have no problem either with gays and lesbians.

Life is weird, huh?

Posted by Bill Dusty on 3.3.12 at 12:12

Please don't think I am being irrational about Swan, I just read an article about Santorum who yesterday said the following:

But five minutes into his speech to the packed dinner Saturday night, Santorum was reiterating his message about the role of faith in the public square.

"When God gave us rights, he gave us responsibilities and laws which we follow and so we as society try to follow that," he said. "It's important to have those higher laws, to have faith in the public square, to hold man accountable for something that is bigger, more responsible then their wants and passions.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2012-03-04/ohio-gop-voters-social-issues-economy/53358498/1?csp=34news

I guess I can't believe how shocked I am to find Swan's name in the Valley Advocate as some sort of hero. 20 years of working in the community? How about a lifetime of hate, working against and scaring the living daylights out of the LGBT community. It's sickening. What is the difference between him and Santorum? Do you not get it?

The article is about Swan, as more than half the article is about him.

Posted by Resident1 on 3.4.12 at 19:03
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