Maine’s public safety commissioner told a state lawmaker Wednesday that a review has determined there was no ulterior motive behind the Maine State Police bestowing one of its highest honors on a trooper accused of racial profiling.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, who filed a complaint with top state law enforcement officials requesting the review, said Thursday that he is not satisfied with its conclusions. He has said he believes that the award, and its timing, were meant to send a message to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Evangelos, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, filed the complaint after Trooper John Darcy was named 2019 Trooper of the Year, belatedly because of the pandemic, in November 2020. This occurred roughly one month after a federal prosecutor dismissed a criminal case stemming from an August 2019 traffic stop Darcy made in which the defendant’s attorney pointed to a video of the trooper describing the Black man he was pulling over as looking “like a thug.”

In the complaint filed with Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck and other law enforcement officials, Evangelos questioned the timing of the award to Darcy, and whether it “was sent as a signal against the movement for racial equity and justice” in light of “the tragedies sweeping the nation in reference to police misconduct and racial profiling” following several high-profile deaths nationally of black people at the hands of police officers in recent years.

In an email to Evangelos on Wednesday, Sauschuck said a review of the reasons for naming Darcy Trooper of the Year had been completed. Sauschuck said his department had called on the state’s Office of Employee Relations to conduct a “thorough” investigation into Evangelos’ complaint, and had determined the award was not meant as a rebuke to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Although we are not at liberty to share detailed findings due to the confidentiality of such information, I can advise that the allegations were not substantiated,” Sauschuck wrote. “It was determined that the nomination process for the 2019 Trooper of the Year Award began in February 2020. Trooper Darcy was selected as the Trooper of the Year well before the allegations of racial profiling were brought forward.”

Evangelos said Thursday that Sauschuck’s response isn’t credible given Darcy’s history concerning traffic stops.

In the York traffic stop on Aug. 15, 2019, Darcy, who is white, pulled over a Black man who was driving north on Interstate 95. The internal microphone in the cruiser recorded his comments to another trooper moments before the stop, and they are quoted in multiple motions later filed in the U.S. District Court in Portland.

“This guy kinda looks like a thug to be honest with you,” Darcy said to an unidentified trooper riding with him.

Darcy went on to say the driver in question looked “like a thug” because “he’s wearing a wifebeater” and “he’s got dreads.” A “wifebeater” is a reference to a sleeveless white T-shirt. Darcy then tells the other trooper that he is not racially profiling the man.

The driver was eventually charged in federal court with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and holding a counterfeit drug for sale, but prosecutors dropped the case after the cruiser video was introduced as evidence of what the defense attorney called racial profiling.

Darcy’s comments in the video have called into question his traffic stops in at least two pending federal cases.

In both, defense attorneys have indicated their clients are African American and raised concerns about the recording. They have asked for more information about Darcy’s record as a state trooper, including information about the race and ethnicity of the drivers he has stopped, to determine if he has a pattern of racial profiling.

Evangelos says he received a spreadsheet, which he forwarded to the Portland Press Herald, detailing 12 traffic stops dating to 2016 involving Darcy that contain information from several defense attorneys who allege that the drivers – 11 of them Black and one Hispanic – were pulled over because of racial profiling. The attorneys provided the information after he filed his complaint with Sauschuck, Evangelos said.

“Clearly, your conclusions are erroneous and I do not accept your findings,” Evangelos wrote in a March 17 email to Sauschuck. “Consequently, I reject your findings and reiterate that you and the State Police conduct a credible investigation, taking into consideration the documented incidents that appear on the spreadsheet, which was provided to me by various defense lawyers. … I’m sure you must be aware of these legal challenges, which have already resulted in summary dismissals in court, wasting the valuable resources of our justice system, due solely to Darcy’s racial profiling misconduct.”

Cases stemming from some of the 12 incidents remain pending. Evangelos said Thursday that he has filed a Freedom of Access Act request asking Maine State Police to provide him with any recordings associated with the 12 traffic stops.

Christopher Parr, staff attorney for the Maine State Police, has corresponded with Evangelos and expressed a desire to get further details on what the lawmaker is requesting, but had not provided the recordings as of Thursday.

He said any videos corresponding to the cases would have to first be reviewed “to determine whether there is a reasonable possibility that their disclosure would constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of any individual who is involved in the matters to which the videos relate.”

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