|2008-06-26 Columns |
|Jerry Bledsoe's Cops in Black & White|
|June 26, 2008|
Part IV of the five-part city legal report is one of its shorter sections. The report was prepared by two assistant city attorneys after City Manager Mitch Johnson and City Attorney Linda Miles ordered them to investigate allegations by black officers that they had been targeted for investigation and mistreatment by "secret police" because of race.
This section is titled "Retention of Consultants and Continued Investigations." It describes how Johnson hired outside investigators from Risk Management Associates (RMA) of Raleigh. RMA's contract with the city states that the scope of its services was to review the findings of the city attorneys' investigation and inform the city manager of its assessment.
But RMA determined that it needed to do its own investigation, which would result in far larger payments to RMA. That investigation would include confrontational interrogations for Police Chief David Wray and others, as well as polygraph exams for some. If the contract was ever amended to allow for those services, as well as for a later investigation by RMA, copies of it have been illegally withheld by the city when public records requests were made. An explanation of how RMA could go beyond its contracted services without an amendment or a new contract has not been provided.
The two assistant city attorneys who prepared the report, Blair Carr, who is white and no longer with the city, and ToNola Brown-Bland, who is black, made no mention in the report of the limited services that RMA was supposed to provide.
"The investigative team concluded that Officer Scott Sanders, Deputy Chief Randall Brady, and Chief David Wray needed to be re-interviewed regarding the following issues:
"--To what degree was Chief Wray knowledgeable of the on-going investigation of Lt. Hinson? [Answer: City attorneys and RMA have falsely maintained that Hinson was relentlessly investigated from October 2002, until he was suspended in June 2005. In fact, there were two investigations. Chief Robert White initiated the first, which continued, off and on, until 2004. The second began in April 2005. Wray had been informed about the first investigation and was regularly briefed about the second.]
"--Had Deputy Chief Brady or Chief Wray altered or intimidated and/or ordered others to alter one or more administrative investigations? [Answer: Both say the answer is no. And no solid evidence has been presented to show that they did.]
"--If the investigations of Lt. Hinson and Officer Fulmore had been concluded by Special Intelligence in 2004, why did Officer Sanders request 16 photo lines ups [sic] containing black male police officers in February 2005? [Answer: A more elaborate explanation will follow this list of questions.]
"--Did Officer Sanders have additional documents or other information detailing his investigation of Lt. Hinson or Officer Fulmore that he had not previously shared with the investigative team? [Answer: Brady presented many documents concerning these investigations to city attorneys in September 2005. After Sanders was interrogated by RMA in November, Assistant Chief Tim Bellamy seized all records of investigations by Special Intelligence.]
"--Is Officer Sanders continuing to investigate and/or track Hinson and/or Fulmore? [Answer: According to Wray and police records, Sanders had no role in investigating or tracking Hinson after Hinson's suspension in June 2005. He had no role in investigating Fulmore after August 2004. At that time, an investigation into a claim by a prostitute that Fulmore had brought her cocaine and had sex with her became an administrative matter. That investigation had been initiated by Vice and Narcotics, not Sanders.]
"--Exactly what instructions were given to the chief and other officers of the GPD regarding grand jury testimony protected under Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, particularly as these instructions might relate to investigations of Hinson?" [Answer: Wray was not chief when the investigation of Hinson for involvement with cocaine cartel leader Elton Turnbull began. Thus he had no reason for receiving such notification. Rule 6(e) notifications are routinely given to federal task force officers and supervisors who would have access to the information collected. Experienced investigators should have known this.]
The question about the photo lineups is indicative of the confusion, misunderstanding and sloppiness prevalent throughout the city legal report.
First, there were 19 lineups, not 16. They later would be called the "black book" by RMA and Mitch Johnson.
Second, these lineups had nothing to do with the investigations of Hinson and Fulmore. They were created after a prostitute reported that she had been sexually molested by an on-duty black officer. Nineteen black officers were on duty at the time of the reported crime. Each officer was included in a lineup with photos of five black males taken from public records. Photos of Hinson and Fulmore were not included. These lineups were shown to the prostitute, but she couldn't identify the assailant.
Third, in September 2005, Carr and Brown-Bland had been provided documents describing these lineups and the reason for their creation. Indeed, they cite them later in the report and get the number of lineups correct. They even call them "an appropriate investigative tool."
Part V of the city legal report is by far its longest. It is called "Key Witness Interviews and Findings." It takes up more than 30 of the report's 44 pages. It is broken into seven sub-sections:
Alteration of documents.
Improper Administrative Pressure.
Disparate Treatment of African Americans.
Appearance of Racial Targeting/Discrimination.
Allegations of Intimidation.
Failure to Follow Procedure.
Summary & Conclusions.
But before it gets to any of these topics, it offers a page-long prelude of additional findings about James Hinson. It notes that key findings about "any inappropriate or improper procedures undertaken during investigations of James Hinson" will be in the accompanying RMA report.
These findings appear to be included to praise Hinson. The report states: "Despite the allegations of wrongdoing that have been levied against Lt. James E. Hinson, the reader, for the sake of completeness, should be aware of the following additional findings with regard to Lt. Hinson's work and reputation that will not be addressed in the RMA report."
However, Carr and Brown-Bland did not fully address these issues. They omitted information available to them that was vital to understanding what they were reporting.
The first finding regards Harold Scott, now an assistant chief. Scott, who is white, had been Hinson's sergeant early in Hinson's career, and was Hinson's captain during a period when Hinson was causing problems for the department in 2004. Wray said that he considered Scott to be a commander who wanted everybody to be happy. Scott wanted to avoid conflict, Wray believed, which resulted in condoning some unacceptable behavior. Wray thought that Scott was unwilling to deal with Hinson, perhaps because Hinson was quick to make claims of racism when something displeased him. Wray assigned Hinson to another division early in 2005, hoping that a new commander would exercise tighter control over him.
According to the report, Scott told Carr and Brown-Bland that "while Hinson could be brash and even harsh with subordinates," he was a hard worker. Scott said he'd never had any problems with Hinson's performance and that Hinson was receptive to his efforts "to guide and develop him."
"Scott reported that Hinson has always been very ambitious and that his only problem was perhaps being too focused on himself and spending too much time on matters that he thought would lead to his being promoted," the report states.
But the assistant city attorneys, and apparently Scott, failed to mention the problems that Hinson was creating about the off-duty work program. Wray said that Hinson had accused commanders and other officers of racism and demanded precedence over others in job assignments. He had not adequately performed some of the off-duty work involving city activities to which he had been assigned, Wray said. Hinson also had ignored directions from on-duty officers who were working the same events and attempted to usurp their authority, according to Wray.
That had prompted Wray to have a confrontation with Hinson. Wray said he told him that he expected lieutenants to be "problem solvers not problem makers" and that "everything can't be a matter of race – you can't be a victim at everything." Wray said he told Hinson that if the problems continued he would have to consider reducing him in rank. That was when Wray reassigned Hinson to a different division, removing him from the command of Scott, who, Wray thought, was dismissing the serious issues Hinson was creating for the department.
The second finding in the prelude is attributed to the captain to whom Wray reassigned Hinson for tighter control. That was Capt. Mike Oates, who also is white. The report says that Oates, too, was pleased with Hinson's work, "though Hinson was proud of himself and had no problems with modesty." It says that Oates' only complaint was that "no one else's work was ever good enough for Hinson."
The report goes on to reveal what Oates told to retired detectives Dannie Thacker, who is black, and Dennis Wyrick, who is white. Thacker and Wyrick had been hired back to conduct an administrative investigation of Hinson following his suspension in June 2005. Oates told them that he never had seen anything to make him suspicious that Hinson was working off duty while on duty. The report also notes that "Capt. Oates' interview with Wyrick and Thacker shows that he never thought there was any problem with Hinson's time reporting, being on duty when scheduled or conducting personal business while on duty."
The report neglects to say that Hinson told Thacker and Wyrick that Oates had torn up time slips in his presence and told him, "I guess that's some free time that you're going to be getting."
Oates denied that he had torn up any slips or said what Hinson claimed. He told Thacker and Wyrick that Hinson was supposed to inform him if he deviated from his schedule and submit leave slips if he was taking off early to work off duty or for other purposes. Hinson hadn't done that, Oates said.
The city attorneys conclude this section claiming that Oates said "no one had reported any such problems with Hinson to him until after the bird dog was discovered by Hinson."
That is false, says former Deputy Chief Randall Brady. It was Oates who came to him with concerns about Hinson's creation of a halfway house for prostitutes, Brady said. That had prompted a new investigation after Hinson ordered a subordinate to admit a woman with a long criminal history and sexual involvement with police officers into the program although she didn't fit the criteria. That was the investigation that led to a bird dog tracker being placed on Hinson's police vehicle. Information gathered from a second GPS tracker and surveillance expanded the investigation into Hinson conducting private business on duty and working off duty while on duty. Brady said that Oates was aware of that and talked regularly with the Special Intelligence detectives conducting the investigation.
"Mike told me about the suspicions he had," Brady said. "He said, 'You and I can catch him.' He knew what was going on. He initiated this stuff."
From these additional findings about Hinson's job performance, the report's authors leap in the same sentence to "other transgressions" supposedly committed by the Wray administration. Following this sentence is sub-section one of Part V of their report – "Alteration of documents."
This section claims that historically, when administrative investigations had been instigated by line supervisors instead of Internal Affairs, the findings had been passed up the chain of command, at which time any supervisor could attach a comment to the original.
"Since Chief Wray took office, the practice has changed," the report says. "On several occasions, Chief Wray, Deputy Chief Brady or an Assistant Chief have [sic] ordered the original report to be changed to conform to their recommendations. Therefore, the original document is forever lost. Moreover, it was revealed that a practice of signing the investigator's name whenever the investigator disagrees with the Command Staff's determination and refuses to sign a changed report—thus making it appear that the investigator agreed with the changes and perhaps had just been unavailable to sign the document when it was finalized [sic]."
Wray says the claim that historic procedures regarding administrative investigations changed when he became chief is false.
"We operated just as we had under Syl Daughtry, Ed Swing and Conrad Wade," he said, speaking of three former police chiefs.
Wray, Brady and former Internal Affairs Commander Matt Lojko say that these claims not only are without basis, but illustrate a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the assistant city attorneys of how the department normally operated.
The report cites two examples to support its claims that documents were wrongly altered or forged. One involves an administrative investigation of a female corporal. The other is "misleading alterations in the Wyrick/Thacker Report."
Wray, Brady and Lojko say the examples are not valid.
The case that Carr and Brown-Bland claim to include "the actual forging of documents" began in the spring of 2003 when Tony Scales was acting chief.
Administrative charges were brought against a female corporal for failure to submit reports and untruthfulness. Untruthfulness once was considered a serious charge in the department.
The city legal report claims the investigation was assigned to a sergeant who was the corporal's supervisor. Actually, the sergeant initiated the charges, according to Randall Brady, and it wasn't the first time he had done this. The corporal is married to a retired captain who is a friend of both Brady and Wray. The captain had played a role in keeping the sergeant from being promoted, Brady said, and Brady suspected the sergeant was directing resentment to the captain's wife because of it.
David Wray was an assistant chief at the time. A black lieutenant, Annie Stevenson, was the supervisor of the sergeant and the corporal. Her commander was Capt. Dwight Crotts, who is white. Crotts was one of two captains who answered to Wray.
Wray said that the only time he became involved in the administrative case was when Stevenson came to talk to him about it. Stevenson told him that the untruthfulness charge was falling apart, he said. The sergeant had a recording that he claimed to justify the charge. Wray remembered Stevenson telling him that Crotts had listened to the recording but didn't think it justified the sergeant's claim.
Wray was appointed chief at the end of July 2003. Two months later he promoted Brady to assistant chief and put him in the job Wray held before becoming chief. Wray promoted Annie Stevenson to captain and put her in the job held by Crotts, whom Wray assigned to Internal Affairs. That was when Brady first became involved in the administrative case against the corporal. By that time the case had stretched on for six months. Brady said he asked Stevenson why the case had dragged on for so long and instructed her to get it wrapped up.
The sergeant had recommended a department-level reprimand, the harshest possible in an administrative investigation. If sustained, that would have required the chief to demote or terminate the corporal.
The city legal report states that Wray "expressed his concerns" about the allegations of untruthfulness." But Wray said he had nothing to do with the investigation after he became chief.
The assistant city attorneys go on to say that the sergeant "distinctly remembers that after submitting his report, he had a meeting" with Stevenson and Brady "during which he was handed a document highlighted by Brady and was instructed to remove the highlighted portions. These portions chiefly concerned the allegation of untruthfulness …"
But Brady had no authority over the sergeant until six months after the investigation was begun. The first time he saw the report, Brady said, he noticed that a truthfulness charge was mentioned in the subject matter at the beginning but nothing about it appeared in the body of the report. He said he asked Stevenson about this and she said that the truthfulness issue had been omitted because it didn't hold up.
Brady said he has no memory of meeting with the sergeant and Stevenson about the matter and doesn't think he did. He definitely didn't instruct the sergeant to remove highlighted portions about truthfulness, he said, because he'd never seen those.
The report by Carr and Brown-Bland says that because the sergeant was "feeling the heat," he decided to lower the reprimand one notch to bureau-level without removing the allegation of untruthfulness. But the city attorneys say that didn't satisfy Brady or Stevenson. Their report states that Stevenson told the sergeant that the report would be rewritten, and the sergeant "responded that any rewritten report had better not have his name attached to it."
"Sergeants don't have a right to say this is the way it's going to be," Brady said. "They don't mandate administrative findings. And they don't get to negotiate them. Anybody above them had the right to change the admin."
Stevenson acted on her own, he said, and she did nothing wrong in rewriting the report and removing the truthfulness issue if she thought it wasn't valid. Stevenson also dropped the reprimand another notch to division-level, which was justified by her findings, Brady said.
Wray said that what happened in this case occurred routinely.
"These things would come up and go back down with changes all the time. Nobody would change facts unless they were wrong. But interpretations and conclusions could differ. That's what supervisors do. These documents were corporate documents, speaking for the organization. They were not the documents of individual officers."
According to Carr and Brown-Bland, "The final report bore a signature and Capt. Stevenson's initials were written over the signature." They go on to say that the sergeant "never saw, signed, or otherwise endorsed the final report. …"
This signature apparently is the "actual forging of documents" referred to earlier by Carr and Brown-Bland. No other mentions of supposed forgeries appear.
"They were making a forgery out of something they could see right on its face wasn't one," Brady said.
Supervisors often signed officers' names to reports, time cards, memos and other documents when officers weren't available to sign them or didn't want to, Brady said. The supervisor initialed the signature to show who actually had signed it. That had been common practice in the department for as long as he had been a supervisor, Brady said.
In November 2005, Brady was ambushed by RMA investigators, and after hours of grueling interrogation, he was required to undergo two polygraph exams, which were administered in violation of police polygraphers' rules. Tension from interrogation could affect results of a polygraph test.
One of the exams administered to Brady was about the corporal's administrative investigation. He was asked three questions. Did he change the results of the investigation? Did Wray direct him to change the results? Before today, did he know the results had been changed? He answered no to each.
But a transcript of Brady's interrogation released by the city makes no mention of that investigation. Brady says that was because it was deliberately omitted. At the beginning of his interrogation, Brady said, he was told that the city manager could withhold his pension if he gave unacceptable answers to questions. Immediately after that, Brady said, Blair Carr threw the corporal's administrative investigation onto the table and asked, "Did you cover for her on a truthfulness charge?"
Brady said he was shocked by this. This was a routine matter that had occurred more than two years earlier. He'd had little to do with it and had trouble remembering details.
When he was called back for another interrogation six days later, Brady said he was told that in the polygrapher's opinion he had shown deception in his answers about the administrative investigation. But he was not shown the raw data or the polygraph report.
Brady said that he had not been deceptive and he had witnesses who could attest to that, including Stevenson, who wasn't interviewed by RMA. He provided the names. "That polygraph thing tore my soul out," Brady said later. "I've got to live with that from now on."
Brady suspected that these tactics had a purpose.
"I think that was what they were using to rap my knuckles with to give the chief up. I can't tell you just how drastic they got on trying to get me to give the chief up," Brady said.
But Brady said he had nothing he could use to give up Wray.
He remembered Michael Longmire, president of RMA, saying this about the changes in the administrative report:
"You did exactly what David Wray wanted you to do."
"And I commented he never told me anything to do on that," Brady said. "He said, 'You've known that man for 30 years. He didn't have to tell you what to do. You knew what to go do.' And I knew right then … that just did it for me, it was a validated witch hunt. That's all it was."
None of this appears in the transcript of Brady's second interrogation either. Instead the transcript begins with Blair Carr saying, "Just so that we're clear, we've been talking for what? About 10 or 15 minutes … and I apologize. I have just turned the tape on and it's you know. …"
Longmire then brought up a different topic.
The second part of the city legal report regarding contentions of alteration of documents concerns the investigation of James Hinson by Thacker and Wyrick. Carr and Brown-Bland write that this involved altering an administrative investigation "without forgery, but with what appears to be overt intentions of misleading the reader." They state that after the retired detectives submitted their draft on Oct. 4, 2005, "Chief Wray felt it necessary to have that report edited by Capt. Lojko and Assistant Chief [Craig] Hartley."
That, says Lojko, simply isn't true. Wray didn't see the first draft by Thacker and Wyrick. Therefore Wray didn't determine that it was necessary for him and Hartley to edit it. Lojko said he read the report first and found it to be unclear and difficult to follow. He passed it on to Hartley who concurred. Both knew that it had to be drastically edited before sending it to Wray.
"The thing they [Carr and Brown-Bland] infer is that Dannie [Thacker] and Dennis [Wyrick] were the authors therefore what they say is gospel," Lojko said. "That's wrong. It's not the way we did things."
This was an extremely complicated case, difficult to understand under the best of circumstances, Lojko said. He not only had to edit the report for comprehension, he had to look for flaws in the investigation: What hadn't been asked, or adequately examined? Which leads hadn't been followed?
"That's the job of a supervisor to say you need to do a little more work on this," Lojko said.
Ironically, Lojko had explained this to Investigator Brian Flannery during his interrogation by RMA.
"I mean that there may be issues in the report as far as questions that I may have about facts, there may be grammatical problems …" he said.
"Sure," said Flannery
"… Typos, readability issues …" said Lojko.
"OK," said Flannery.
Lojko pointed out that he knew there could be political ramifications from the report, and that it could end up in court.
"We're going to do what we need to do to make sure it is readable, people can understand it … There's no sense in giving something to somebody if they can't make any … sense out of it."
"I understand," said Flannery.
Brown-Bland also had participated in that interrogation, Lojko noted, and she apparently had not understood.
Carr and Brown-Bland compared the first draft by Thacker and Wyrick to the final report dated Nov. 9, 2005. They failed to mention that there was another version dated Nov. 2, which was the first one seen by Wray. They write that Thacker and Wyrick, who signed the final report, "believed the changes were not material to the allegations." They also quote Thacker as saying the changes consisted of "unimportant 'editorializing.'"
Yet Carr and Brown-Bland go on to point out discrepancies between the first draft and the final. When the two are compared, they write, the final version "is misleading in several instances."
One instance they note as misleading is that the final report says that Bridgett Ekwensi, a stripper who worked in Elton Turnbull's drug operation, was interviewed once, but that Thacker and Wyrick knew that she had been interviewed at least twice.
But the final version of the report makes clear that Ekwensi had been interviewed once in the original investigation by Detectives Scott Sanders and Brian Bissette, and on the same page says that she later was interviewed by Internal Affairs.
"They just hadn't read it," Lojko said of Carr and Brown-Bland.
Carr and Brown-Bland also cite another set of differences between the first draft and the rewritten final version. These differences, they write, "would permit the reader to make an incorrect inference."
This involved statements by then Assistant Chief Tim Bellamy and Capt. Mike Oates about Bellamy spotting somebody driving another officer's car early one morning in an area where prostitutes worked.
The final version was different for a good reason, Lojko said.
"I was unclear about what Dannie and Dennis had written. I personally re-interviewed Oates and Bellamy. I wanted to make sure I was hearing it from them myself," Lojko said.
He rewrote the section to make sure it was clear and correct, he said, not to make it "possibly misleading," as Carr and Brown-Bland contend.
In Lojko's view it was Carr and Brown-Bland who were being misleading.
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