A new police issue flares in Colwyn

Posted: July 24, 2013

The Colwyn Borough public safety director and an assistant were arrested Sunday morning on charges brought by an borough officer who was facing a discipline suspension.

Rochelle Bilal, the director of public safety, and Wanda Davis, an assistant, were in a meeting to consider disciplinary action against the arresting officer, Trever Parham, on unspecified violations. Parham barged into the meeting to serve the arrest warrants, according to Tariq Karim El-Shabazz, a lawyer representing Bilal and Davis.

Bilal and Davis were charged with theft, receiving stolen property, and conspiracy, for allegedly confiscating and opening the mail of another officer.

The two have not yet been arraigned, according to court officials. The incident is under investigation by the district attorney, said Emily Harris, spokesperson for the office. Bilal and Davis referred questions to their lawyer. Efforts to reach Parham were not successful.

The charges will likely go nowhere, El-Shabazz said. The paperwork was not properly completed, he said, and Parham was suspended as an officer shortly after the arrests.

In October, Parham was found not guilty of simple assault and official oppression by a judge after he Tasered a juvenile who was shackled and handcuffed in a holding cell.

The Borough Council voted to rehire Parham this year, said Crystal Powell, borough solicitor.

Efforts to reach Mayor Daniel Rutland were not successful. Borough Council President Tonette Pray did not return calls.

Parham and a second officer, Jade Hayes, were recently brought up on separate, unrelated disciplinary charges. It was during a meeting on those charges Sunday that Bilal and Davis were arrested on charges brought by Parham.

According to the criminal complaint Parham filed to make his arrests, an unnamed complainant alleged that mail sent to her by way of the Borough Hall was opened without permission. Denia Bryant, a witness interviewed by police, said she saw Davis collect the mail, open it, and read it to Bilal.

According to the criminal complaint, police interviewed the mayor and Borough Council members and "discovered Bilal is not an official borough employee."

"That is completely erroneous," Powell said. Bilal was hired part time in October, she said.

What Parham has accused Bilal of doing is in the scope of her duties and responsibilities, El-Shabazz said.

"This is unnecessary stuff, and the scary thing is this guy had a badge and a gun," said El-Shabazz.

Bilal, a former Philadelphia police officer, is president of the Guardian Civic League, which represents black officers. She retired from the Philadelphia force in April.

Her previously overlapping employment with Colwyn and Philadelphia created a potential criminal problem. In May, the Borough Hall offices were raided by Philadelphia police, who were investigating Bilal for alleged theft - apparently for getting paychecks from two departments at once, which is against policy.

Contact Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149, mschaefer@phillynews.com or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.


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