AUBURN (CBS13) — New federal legislation could require officers to wear body cameras. It's an issue that is top of mind for many in Auburn, CA who are rallying around a hometown hero. Dalton Dyer is facing multiple felonies based on an officer's word alone.
In the largely white community of Auburn, Dalton Dyer stands out in a crowd. His life is often compared to a movie plot. The local high school football star was taken in by his coach. He had to fight for the right to play football as a foster child, and he won.
Now 10 years later, the community is rallying around Dalton again.
"I first met Dalton in 2008 when he was sent here as a foster child," his foster dad Joey Montoya told the large, mostly white, crowd that had gathered to protest on Dalton's behalf. "He's faced adversity, but every time it's led to change in a positive way," the crowd cheered in response.
"Seeing those people come out support with their signs, I'm just I'm so in love with the town for that," Dalton said. "It's amazing to see the love."
There are more than 20,000 signatures on a petition calling for the District Attorney to drop three felony charges against Dalton, including two strikes.
The charges stem from a 2018 arrest for obstruction and resisting an officer after his cousin was pulled over for suspected DUI, and Dalton, the passenger, was reportedly given permission to get out of the car to speak with his cousin.
Auburn police denied CBS13's request for a copy of the police report, but according to published reports - in addition to conversations with Auburn police, Dalton's attorney as well as Dalton himself - an officer tased Dalton and later alleged that Dalton punched him. Neither Dalton's cousin nor a second officer on scene reportedly saw the alleged punch.
The two battery charges are not listed on the initial arrest record but were later added in a supplemental report that the Auburn Police Department declined to provide to CBS13. The officer who alleged he was punched has since retired from the force.
"How would I be able to throw a punch if you have my hands? And so that's why I've asked for a body camera," Dalton said. "Because if there was camera footage, we wouldn't even need to be here."
Dalton insists he never hit the officer and alleges, instead, he was the one who was hit. He's been calling for body camera or dash camera footage, which he believes would prove his innocence.
The problem - there is no body camera footage. Auburn police say the officer's camera had been sent out for repairs. The department tells CBS13 they haven't had dash cams in Auburn Police vehicles for over a decade.
The lack of police video has become an increasing concern with a growing number of cases in which cell phone video ultimately contradicts the official police report.
Officers in Buffalo said an elderly man tripped before video surfaced indicating they shoved him.
And, of course, there's the case of George Floyd.
Philip Stinson, a criminologist and former officer, has tracked more than 10,000 arrest cases of officers charged with a crime. He says data shows more than 6 percent involved false reports or statements and about a quarter of those cases involved alleged acts of police violence.
Though, based on public examples and the fact that most police are never arrested, Stinson believes the number of false reports or statements is much higher.
"I don't want to suggest that all police officers falsify reports, but it happens with some regularity," said Stinson, a professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University.
A recent poll found a majority of Americans support outfitting police with cameras. It's estimated approximately half of the nation's departments currently have a body camera program, but implementation and requirements for using the cameras varies greatly between departments.
Stinson notes the body cameras benefit the officers as much as the public.
"It protects officers against false allegations," Stinson said.
The Auburn Police Department tells CBS13 that their officers are not currently required to activate their body cameras when making an arrest.
Dalton doesn't think he should be convicted based on an officer's word alone.
"Why didn't you just plea? Why is it so important for you to get these charges dismissed?" CBS13 Investigative Reporter Julie Watts asked.
"Because there's accountability," Dalton responded.
"Pleading guilty to anything is unnecessary. They just need to be held accountable for their actions and stop dragging this out," Dalton said, adding that it's going on 20 months since his arrest.
He fears being pulled over or stopped by police before having his name cleared.
"I don't think people know how it feels to be, you know, 20 months labeled, three felonies, two strikes everywhere you go," Dalton said.
He says he's now fighting for the community, for his family and for his little sisters, who are white.
"At the end of the day, they know who I am," Dalton said, beaming as he spoke about his foster sisters. "They won't be racist, they won't have that in them, and that's my biggest encouragement."
Dalton says he's now considering a career change and wants to be a defense attorney. His next court date is June 22.
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