VOL. 133 | NO. 81 | Monday, April 23, 2018
State and Federal Corruption Charges Against Two Cops Prompt Review of Their Cases
By Bill Dries
The District Attorney General’s office is reviewing arrests and criminal cases in which two former Memphis Police officers played a major role. The review comes after officers Terrion Bryson and Kevin Coleman were indicted by the Shelby County grand jury and a federal grand jury on state and federal drug conspiracy, robbery and corruption charges.
Bryson and Coleman were charged after they allegedly escorted what they thought was a delivery of heroin to a Memphis storage facility. The deal was set up by an undercover police officer working as part of the Tarnished Badge task force.
The escort included a uniformed police officer in a marked patrol car, according to the charges. An investigation began earlier this year following complaints that the partners were robbing people during traffic stops while they were on duty – an allegation investigators allegedly had no problem corroborating when the undercover officer was stopped and robbed by them twice.
The local, state and federal task force was formed eight years ago to specifically investigate allegations of police and law enforcement misconduct. The task force had obtained more than 100 convictions during that time.
District Attorney General Amy Weirich said the review of cases involving Coleman and Bryson began earlier this month to identify arrests these officers participated in, update the status of those cases and determine the next steps that need to be taken in the interest of justice.
“One of these officers had been on the force much longer than the other so our initial review began last week,” Weirich said. “The scope may be very large”
U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant called the charges “disturbing acts.”
“We want to make sure that everyone has faith and confidence in honest and hard-working officers,” Dunavant said. “It’s vitally important that we deter this behavior by holding people accountable … and that we restore the faith and confidence of citizens in the good law enforcement officers.”
The investigation into Coleman and Bryson began in early February, according to the affidavit filed with the state charges. The police Organized Crime Unit was told Coleman and Bryson were robbing those they made traffic stops on of money and drugs.
“We will not tolerate police misconduct,” Memphis Police director Michael Rallings said. “We’re going to push for the maximum prosecution because that is not representative of the Memphis Police Department and we do not want you.”
Rallings notified the Tarnished Badge task force and that triggered the investigation that involved using at least one undercover officer.
Twice Coleman and Bryson pulled over the unnamed undercover officer – called a “UC” in the affidavit – and took money from him, according to the affidavit.
Bryson then called the undercover officer offering to protect an upcoming drug shipment the UC mentioned.
“Bryson advised the UC that he would have to talk to his partner Kevin Coleman before he could let him know the arrangements,” the affidavit reads.
By April, Bryson was allegedly bargaining with the undercover officer. The UC said he would pay $3,000 for Bryson and Coleman to protect what was supposed to be a shipment of heroin coming to a storage facility in Memphis. Bryson, according to the affidavit, said it would cost $10,000.
All three of them met earlier this month at Third Street and Western Park in Westwood. The affidavit doesn’t say whether investigators were watching and recording the meeting. But recording such meetings is a normal feature of undercover corruption investigations.
“During the negotiation, Coleman, while on duty as a Memphis Police officer, threatened physical harm to the UC’s family if the arrangement was a set up,” the affidavit reads.
The three settled on a price of $9,000, with half paid in advance and half upon the safe delivery of what was billed as 2.5 kilos of heroin.
The advance payment was left in a car in the parking lot of the Walmart in Raleigh April 12 for Bryson to allegedly pick up. Later that same day, Bryson and Coleman allegedly met with the UC to escort him and the drugs to a storage unit on Millbranch Road. Bryson was off duty and Coleman was on duty, in uniform and in a marked police car, according to the affidavit.
At the storage unit, the UC paid them the rest of the $9,000 and they left, going to the parking lot of a retail strip at 1665 E. Raines Road near Millbranch Road. That’s where they were arrested with the money, and, according to the affidavit, confessed.