City of Poughkeepsie settles civil rights suit stemming from 2019 police confrontation with 2 sisters

The mother of then 13-year-old Julissa Dawkins and 16-year-old Jamelia Barnett filed a lawsuit that alleged excessive force and false arrest.

News 12 Staff

Jul 8, 2023, 2:32 AM

Updated 344 days ago

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The City of Poughkeepsie has settled a civil rights suit for $400,000 stemming from an 2019 incident in which Poughkeepsie police took two sisters to the ground.
At the time, News 12 reported the incident in which Poughkeepsie police tried to break up a fight between teens.
The mother of then 13-year-old Julissa Dawkins and 16-year-old Jamelia Barnett filed a lawsuit that alleged excessive force and false arrest.
Their attorney, William Wagstaff III, said the family had to move to the South. They felt harassed and unsafe, but he said now they can finally begin healing.
"There's still a lot of anxiety, a lot of pain," Wagstaff said.
Early on, then-Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison told News 12 the arrests were reasonable under the circumstances "which included an officer forced to the ground and a fight that spilled into traffic."
Current Mayor Marc Nelson said the city is grateful to see the matter settled and will "continue our comprehensive focus on building strong relations between the police and the community."
"No amount of money is going to erase the trauma these girls have had," Wagstaff added.
Wagstaff said it is the family's hope then that this money that could have gone toward youth programs or safety initiatives will motivate people to demand better prevention and response to misconduct.
That is partially because the two officers involved, John Williams and Kevin VanWagner, are still on the force.
According to Wagstaff, they were never disciplined.


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