RMA: Omission And Innuendo - Part 86
Cops in Black & White by Jerry Bledsoe - Part 86
October 01, 2009
One thing needs to be understood about private investigators. They are not truth seekers, at least not in the wider sense that many people might think of truth.
The code of ethics for private investigators in North Carolina states that all their reporting will be "based upon truth and fact." But the truths and facts that they seek are those their clients desire to fit their purposes, not necessarily a fuller truth, or the whole truth. Oftentimes facts and truthful statements can be assembled to create a portrayal far different from truth, particularly if other relevant facts and truthful statements are omitted.
In October 2005, former City Manager Mitch Johnson began looking for private investigators for his own purposes. He settled on a group called Risk Management Associates (RMA) of Raleigh. How he chose this group has never been made public. Also unknown to the public are what instructions he gave to the group. Public records requests for documents that might reveal these instructions or the contents of discussions between the city manager, the city attorney and RMA investigators brought no meaningful results.
It now appears clear that Johnson's purpose in hiring RMA was to gather information to provide support for getting rid of Police Chief David Wray. Johnson and Wray are white. In June 2005, Wray had become the center of a crisis in the Police Department when Lt. James Hinson went public with claims that "secret police" were investigating him and other black officers because of race.
City Manager Ed Kitchen publicly supported Wray in the controversy. But Kitchen, who is white, retired at the end of July, while the controversy still raged, and Johnson was appointed acting city manager. As deputy manager, Johnson had overseen operations of the Police Department, and he and Wray had clashed soon after Kitchen appointed Wray chief on July 31, 2003.
One of the primary mandates given to Wray by Kitchen was to restore the integrity of the department, which had fallen into question during the four-and-a-half-year reign of Chief Robert White, who is black. When an enraged black officer struck a hand-cuffed prisoner only weeks after Wray became chief, Wray fired him, only to have Johnson reinstate the officer without even consulting him. Wray believed that Johnson had undercut his authority, and sent a message to the department that any decision the chief made could be overruled simply by appealing to the city manager. Wray said he confronted Johnson about it and told him this was setting a precedent that would cause problems for the department in the future, but Johnson was unconcerned about it.
While reverberations from this incident were ongoing, a scandal erupted involving Project Homestead, which used public funds to build houses for low-income families. Project Homestead was run by a flamboyant black minister, Michael King, who frequently used claims of racism to get his way with public officials. King was a member of the Simkins PAC, which directs the formidable black vote in Greensboro and Guilford County and has great influence on elected officials and appointed governmental managers. Inappropriate deals had been made, at least one profiting a Simkins PAC member, and large sums were unaccounted for and apparently had been used for personal extravagances.
Wray joined with other law enforcement agencies to begin an investigation, but quickly found himself in conflict with Johnson and City Attorney Linda Miles, who is white. Wray received reports that Miles was attempting to interfere in the investigation. Wray also learned that Miles intended to hand over to news outlets documents seized at Project Homestead before law enforcement investigators had a chance to go through them. Wray turned the documents over to the FBI in an attempt to stop this. Miles and Johnson demanded their return and got them. Wray believed the release of the documents could tip off people who might be charged and allow them to thwart the investigation. Johnson and Miles released the documents anyway.
The district attorney suggested to Wray that he write a memo to Miles to make certain that a record of his objection was on file. Wray did so. Johnson demanded that he rescind the memo. Wray refused. After this his relationship with Johnson became even more contentious.
Only days after Ed Kitchen retired in the midst of the controversy about secret police and racial profiling, Joe Williams met with Mitch Johnson and Linda Miles, whom he described as his friends. Although low-keyed and seldom in the public eye, Williams, who is black, probably is the most politically powerful person in Guilford County. Williams is a lawyer, a former district court judge, and the most influential leader of the Simkins PAC. Usually, he need only make his wishes known to see quick results from city, county and state officials.
Williams represented Hinson and other black officers, and he wanted something done about David Wray. Johnson wanted to be city manager and needed the support of the black community to get the job. In short order Johnson instructed Wray to appear for a confrontation with Williams and representatives of black officers. Wray later described that encounter as an "inquisition" during which he was besieged by allegations that had little to do with facts.
Johnson also ordered an investigation of the black officers' claims by two assistant city attorneys – one white, the other black – neither trained investigators. Their report was completed in less than six weeks. And only days after being appointed city manager with Williams' support, Johnson hired three private investigators from RMA to put a seal of approval on the greatly flawed and frequently false findings of the city attorneys. The investigators were former law enforcement officers, all of them white.
RMA produced a 31-page report. Johnson used it to force Wray's resignation in early January 2006. He also used it to further racially inflame the community with false claims of a "black book" used by the secret police. Later, Chief Tim Bellamy would further fuel this conflagration with more false claims about surveillance of black community leaders, supposedly including Joe Williams.
Part 4 of the RMA report, its final section, contains a summary of the private investigators' conclusions. This section begins with a repeat of the question that the investigators say was their primary focus.
"Did the police chief provide accurate and truthful information to the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, City Attorney, City Council members and/or the public at large regarding the suspension of Lieutenant Hinson, the discovery of the tracking device and other related matters?"
The report goes on to say this:
"Risk Management Associates believes that the facts and circumstances support the logical conclusion that the Chief of Police David Wray did in fact fail to provide accurate and truthful information to the City Manager and others regarding this specific issue. There is clear and convincing evidence to support the conclusion that Wray chose instead to provide misleading and erroneous information which puts into question his veracity, competency and ability to manage critical personnel and other issues."
The irony of this is that the RMA report provides no "clear and convincing evidence" that Wray misled or provided erroneous information to anybody. In fact, the report supplies little evidence of any sort, relying instead on supposition, innuendo, vital omissions and statements that are shown to be false by records that were available to the investigators.
The report then offers 38 numbered conclusions to which, it says, a "reasonable person" would be led by the information in the report. Only two of these conclusions are based on accurate information. All the rest are either misleading, false or contain inaccuracies to one degree or another.
This is the first conclusion: "Lieutenant James Hinson is not now and has never been the subject, target, or a person of interest in a multi-agency law enforcement task force effort. In particular, Hinson has never been and is not now the focus of any investigative effort under the direction of the U.S. Attorney's Office or the Middle District of North Carolina."
This is a straw man created by RMA. Neither Wray nor anybody else in the Police Department ever claimed that Hinson was a target or subject of a multi-agency investigation or an investigation directed by the US attorney. However, Hinson did become a person of interest in the federal task force investigation of cocaine cartel leader Elton Turnbull after Hinson's telephone numbers were found in Turnbull's safe and wallet.
Federal authorities allowed the Greensboro Police Department to investigate its own in this instance. Earlier in the investigation, Capt. Julian K. Davis, who is black, assigned Special Intelligence Detective Scott Sanders, whose racial designation is Pacific Islander, to work with Vice and Narcotics Detective Brian Bissett in investigating an officer who was seen coming and going from Turnbull's house. Bissett, who is white, was a task force officer. The two picked up the Hinson investigation when his telephone numbers were discovered after Turnbull's arrest. The RMA report never mentions that it was a black commander who assigned Sanders and a black chief who subsequently ordered the investigation of Hinson.
RMA's second conclusion is this: "There is not now and has never been any credible evidence supported by documented facts and circumstances to support any violations of federal criminal offenses by Lieutenant James Hinson."
This is one of the two true conclusions. There was no federal investigation of Hinson to find any such evidence, although federal authorities were briefed about the Police Department's investigation. That investigation showed that Hinson had sold a house to Turnbull and the two shared a mistress who was a stripper and courier for Turnbull. The stripper told investigators that Hinson knew that Turnbull was a drug dealer and that she had told Hinson about working for Turnbull, although Hinson never reported that to his supervisors. But Turnbull denied that Hinson ever assisted him in his drug operations.
RMA conclusion 3: "During a period of time beginning around October 2002, Hinson was the focus of an internal criminal investigation under the primary supervision of [Randall] Brady who soon became the Captain overseeing that unit."
This is basically true, but Sanders was not under Brady's supervision when he was assigned to the case, and Brady said that he was unaware of the Hinson investigation until January 2003. At that time, he briefed newly appointed Acting Chief Tony Scales about it. Scales is black.
RMA conclusion 4: "The police unit assigned to conduct this on-going criminal investigation of Hinson was a part of the Special Intelligence Division of the GPD."
This appears to say that the original investigation of Hinson was still on-going at the time the RMA report was written, which was not true. The use of the word "unit" here implies the secret police. Earlier in the report, the investigators say that Sanders operated such a unit within Special Intelligence. Why a black commander and black chief would create such a unit to target black officers because of race is unexplained. Also at the time of this investigation, there was no Special Intelligence Division. Special Intelligence and Internal Affairs were co-equal units within the Special Investigations Division, which was disbanded by Wray.
RMA conclusion 5: "This unit did not follow the established procedures set forth in the policies and directives established by the GPD to regulate the investigation of police misconduct."
The RMA report provides no evidence to support this. Furthermore the conclusion is false. At the time the Hinson investigation began, Greensboro chiefs had been using Special Intelligence for sensitive internal investigations for more than 20 years. None had used the unit for this purpose more than White, who ordered that all internal criminal investigations be conducted by Special Intelligence. Contrary to the RMA report, departmental directives allow this.
RMA conclusion 6: "The targets of this unit were for the most part minority members of the Greensboro Police Department."
The RMA report offers no evidence of this either. Police records show that there were no targets for Special Intelligence, racial or otherwise. Special Intelligence initiated no internal investigations. Detectives were assigned to valid investigations that were initiated by outside law enforcement agencies and other divisions within the department. Documents show that Special Intelligence was used to investigate white officers as well as black.
RMA conclusion 7: "This investigative unit often purported to be a part of a federal investigative effort into police misconduct, operated outside of the normal chain of command, and became known by the rank and file of the GPD as the 'secret police.'"
The report does not offer one single instance of Special Intelligence detectives purporting to be part of a federal investigative effort into police misconduct, nor does it offer a name of anybody who could verify that this occurred. Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady, who is white, say they are not aware that this ever happened.
Police records show that Sanders worked within the chain of command throughout his years in Special Intelligence. Wray, Brady and numerous other officers say that they never heard of the term secret police in regard to the Greensboro Police Department until they read it in Lorraine Ahearn's column in the News & Record in which she revealed Hinson's claim that he was being targeted for investigation because of race. It was Ahearn who wrote that the "rank and file" referred to Special Intelligence as the secret police, and RMA simply plucked it out of the newspaper. The rank and file of the Greensboro Police Department numbers some 500 officers, and it is highly unlikely that Ahearn or RMA surveyed all of them to determine that conclusion. The term secret police likely came from five black officers who had been investigated by Special Intelligence and were angry about it.
RMA conclusion 8: "The investigative efforts of this unit did not find any substantive evidence supported by documented facts and circumstances to support the finding that Hinson violated any state or local criminal offense."
This is false. The detectives did find such evidence, but the charges would have been misdemeanors and the statute of limitations had expired. Even if the statute of limitations hadn't expired, it would have been unlikely that Hinson would have been charged because prosecutors are reluctant to bring charges against police officers when prostitutes are the primary witnesses. Some officers are keenly aware of that and use it to their advantage.
RMA conclusion 9: "Since becoming Police Chief in 2003, Wray knew of the use of this unit and knew or should have known of the details of the on-going investigative effort."
Here again, the RMA report apparently is talking about the supposed secret police unit that it claims Sanders operated within Special Intelligence. Wray wasn't aware of it, he said, because it didn't exist. Soon after he became chief, however, Wray was briefed about the investigation of Hinson in which Sanders and Bissett were involved. He said that was his first knowledge of it.
The examination of the conclusions of the RMA report will continue in the next installment of Cops in Black & White.