RMA Gets Two Right, 36 Wrong - Part 87
Cops in Black & White by Jerry Bledsoe, Part 87
October 15, 2009
Shortly after Mitch Johnson was appointed city manager in October 2005, he hired a private investigative and security firm, Risk Management Associates (RMA) of Raleigh, to follow up on an investigation that Johnson had ordered City Attorney Linda Miles to conduct into claims that black officers had been targeted for investigation by "secret police" because of race.
RMA assigned three investigators to the case, including company President Michael Longmire. All of the investigators were former law enforcement officers and all are white.
Only five weeks after the contract with the city was signed, RMA produced a 31-page report that Johnson used to justify locking Police Chief David Wray out of his office and forcing his resignation on Jan. 9, 2006. Johnson, Wray and Miles are white.
The RMA report was supposed to be read only by Johnson, Miles and city councilmembers. But within weeks it was in the hands of black community leaders and black officers. And in March it was leaked to the News & Record. Seven months later, blogger and community activist Ben Holder, who is white, got a copy of the report and passed it out to bloggers and others. For a while, it was even posted on the internet.
The report, which is heavy on supposition and innuendo and slight on evidence, is broken into four parts. The final part includes 38 numbered conclusions. The first nine were analyzed in Cops in Black & White, Part 86.
RMA conclusion 10 is this: "Chief Wray knew or should have known that the results of the SID criminal investigation into Lieutenant [James] Hinson were presented to Internal Affairs at the direction of [Deputy] Chief [Randall] Brady in 2004."
This is one of only two of RMA's 38 conclusions that are factual. All the others are either false, misleading or contain inaccuracies. The criminal investigation of Hinson, who is black, began in the fall of 2002 when federal authorities found Hinson's telephone numbers in the safe and wallet of cocaine cartel leader Elton Turnbull, who is black. That investigation didn't result in criminal charges. It was turned over to Internal Affairs in late February 2004. Wray said he was informed of that by Brady. Brady is white.
RMA conclusion 11: "Between February and August of 2004, a thorough and complete review of these allegations of criminal misconduct and appropriate follow-up investigative actions were conducted by Internal Affairs unit and supervised by [Capt. Dwight] Crotts."
This review was conducted by Internal Affairs Detective Ryan Walton, under the direction of Sgt. Levester Thomas. Walton is white, Thomas black. Their commander, Crotts, now an assistant chief, is white. But the RMA report fails to note that Thomas was a friend of Hinson, and should not have been involved in any review or investigation of him, although Crotts allowed that to occur. Also the RMA report offers no information about this review. Who was interviewed? What did they say? A genuine investigative report would contain that information.
One key person who was not interviewed was James Hinson. Directives would have required him to truthfully answer all questions.
The RMA report offers no clue as to how investigators determined that Walton's review was "thorough and complete." In a letter to The Rhino Times, Walton stated that he had not read reports prepared by the two detectives who had been assigned to the case under the direction of former Chief Robert White, who is black. Those detectives were Brian Bissett, a Vice and Narcotics officer who was part of a federal task force, and Scott Sanders, a Special Intelligence detective. Bissett is white. Sanders' racial classification is Pacific Islander. His father is white, his mother Hawaiian.
Could the Internal Affairs review be thorough and complete when the detective conducting it hadn't read vital reports from the criminal investigation and saw no need to question Hinson?
RMA conclusion 12: "On August 23, 2004, a reasonable conclusion was drawn by Corporal Walton and the Internal Affairs Commander that there were no substantive facts or circumstances to support any additional investigative actions involving allegations of misconduct regarding Hinson. (Walton Report)."
How RMA investigators determined that "a reasonable conclusion" was drawn by Walton and Crotts is not made known. However, for Walton and Crotts to reach that conclusion they had to ignore the basic facts of the investigation by Bissett and Sanders.
During that investigation, two strippers who worked for Turnbull supplied ample information that Hinson had for years violated departmental directives about appropriate behavior for police officers.
One of those strippers was Bridgett Ekwensi, who served as a recruiter and courier for Turnbull. Ekwenski, who is black, was a credible source for federal authorities. She provided information that proved to be accurate and led to convictions. She also assisted in an investigation that resulted in the arrest and conviction of a Police Department employee on a charge of soliciting prostitution.
The other stripper was Toshia Withers, who is black. Hinson began a sexual relationship with Withers late in 1995 that continued into 1997, when Withers became Turnbull's mistress. Withers said the relationship included sex with Hinson in his patrol car while he was in uniform and on duty, although Hinson later denied that. Officers have been fired for such behavior.
Withers, Ekwensi and two other strippers performed at a bachelor party for Hinson prior to his second wedding early in 1997. According to Ekwensi and Withers, open sexual acts took place at the party, and Hinson and other officers participated. Police officers also have been fired for patronizing prostitutes. Ekwensi told detectives that Hinson got angry and assaulted Withers after Withers went into a bathroom for a "private session" with another officer at the party.
Withers also told detectives that Hinson associated regularly with a person he knew to be a drug dealer, Rodney Jenkins, called "Swamp," and Turnbull verified that to investigators. Jenkins is black. Withers also said that Hinson knew that Turnbull was a drug dealer and that she worked for him. Withers lived in a house owned by Hinson, and in 1999 Hinson sold the house to Turnbull. Withers said that Hinson knew the money he received for the house came from drug sales.
Hinson's relationship with Withers continued throughout her four-year affair with Turnbull. After Turnbull's arrest by federal authorities in October 2002, Withers said she called Hinson to ask if she could be in trouble, and he told her not to worry. Hinson didn't end the relationship with Withers until February 2003, when she called to tell him that she had spoken to detectives. Telephone records verify these calls.
Associating with known criminals is a violation of Police Department directives. Yet, according to RMA investigators, Walton and Crotts found "no substantive facts or circumstances to support any additional investigative actions involving allegations of misconduct regarding Hinson."
RMA conclusion 13: "The appropriate documentation of that investigation and those findings were filed in the confidential files of the Internal Affairs unit."
There was no investigation by Internal Affairs, only a review to determine whether an investigation should be conducted. The "appropriate documentation," which the RMA report calls the "Walton Report," was a single-page memo stating that there was no cause for an investigation. No details were included. The memo was placed in what is called a "frag file," a file in which information that may be useful in the future is stored. Nothing about the review was put into Hinson's personnel file.
RMA conclusion 14: "Deputy Chief Brady knew of those findings in 2004, and that [sic] Chief Wray knew or should have known of these findings in 2004."
Brady said that he was briefed about Walton's findings in late summer 2004, but failed to inform Wray. Brady said he was unaware of Walton's memo at the time.
Wray said he didn't learn about these findings, or Walton's memo, until July 2005. After suspending Hinson in June, Wray hired back two retired Internal Affairs detectives, Dannie Thacker, who is black, and Dennis Wyrick, who is white, to conduct an administrative investigation of all Hinson's questionable activities, which were numerous. Thacker and Wyrick discovered the Walton memo in July and didn't want to proceed with the investigation on the grounds that Hinson already had been investigated. However, Police Attorney Maurice Cawn ruled that Walton's review didn't amount to an investigation and Thacker and Wyrick reluctantly continued.
RMA conclusion 15: "In 2004, Chief Wray was contacted by retired GPD Captain Al Stewart and an Assistant Supervisor of the SBI, James Bowman, both of whom expressed their concerns over the veracity, investigative tactics and motives used by the unit (Sanders, Bissett and others) and that there was the appearance of focusing investigations on black officers that often stemmed from actions to what would ordinarily be non-criminal performance or administrative issues."
This is false, says Wray. Bowman, who is white, never expressed any such concerns to him, Wray said. Stewart, the former commander of Vice and Narcotics, did come to see him in the summer of 2004, according to Wray. Both Bissett and Sanders had worked for Stewart, and former Vice and Narcotics detectives say that Stewart never liked either officer. However, Stewart, who is white, was a big booster of Julius Fulmore. Fulmore, who is black, had worked for Stewart before being transferred to Special Intelligence, where he twice fell under investigation, first by the Sheriff's Department and the SBI in the fall of 2003, and again by the Police Department in June 2004.
At the time Stewart came to see Wray, the second investigation of Fulmore was underway. Vice and Narcotics detectives had discovered that Fulmore had rented a motel room adjoining the room of a known prostitute and crack cocaine user. The prostitute said that Fulmore had brought her cocaine and she had had sex with him without charge. Fulmore denied that, although he later showed deception on a polygraph test when he was asked about it.
Wray recalled that Stewart told him that he believed Sanders had a vendetta against Fulmore.
"I said, 'Al, give me something solid here,'" Wray said. "And he couldn't give me anything except that he just didn't like Sanders. Al didn't give me anything to work with at all, just generalities, nothing but an informed opinion. He didn't give me examples of bad stuff."
RMA conclusion 16: "This unit continued investigating Hinson and other minority officers under the direction of Deputy Chief Brady and outside the normal established Internal Affairs process."
Apparently this conclusion is referring to the summer of 2004 and the "unit" to which it is referring was the so-called secret police, which the RMA claimed without evidence was made up of Sanders, his sergeant, Tom Fox, who is white, and sometimes other unnamed officers. No such unit existed. The only black officer under investigation at this time was Fulmore. He was investigated criminally by Vice and Narcotics, with assistance from Sanders. In August, that investigation was turned over to Internal Affairs and was overseen by Capt. Dwight Crotts. It was not outside the Internal Affairs process, as the RMA report claims.
No other black officer was investigated until a new criminal investigation of Hinson began in April 2005, and that was within departmental directives and approved by the police attorney.
RMA conclusion 17: "Deputy Chief Brady authorized and caused the creation and use of a 'black book' containing 114 photographs of black males for and to be used by this unit to investigate a criminal allegation against an unidentified black officer. This notebook contained the photographs of 19 black male GPD officers."
Brady did not authorize the creation of a black book. That was a phrase he'd never heard in regard to the Greensboro Police Department when he approved photo lineups to be shown to a prostitute who claimed she had been sexually molested in a motel room by a black uniformed officer who was on duty. The lineups were shown to the prostitute in February 2005.
The prostitute was an informant who reported the molestation to a Vice and Narcotics officer several months after it occurred. She couldn't remember the date that it happened. Investigating officers got records for the period she was at the hotel where the incident occurred and did a computer search to determine how many black officers were on call in the area during that time. They came up with 19 names. Each of these officers was included in a six-person lineup that was shown to the prostitute.
The two assistant city attorneys who investigated claims that black officers had been racially targeted noted in their report that, "Creating line-ups to depict all African-American officers who were on patrol during the time of the offense is an appropriate investigative tool."
RMA conclusion 18: "Chief Wray knew of the existence of the 'black book' during the first or second week of June 2005. Instead of disclosing this fact, he instructed Brady, once he took possession of the book, to secure or hide it."
Wray said he had no knowledge of these lineups until July 8, 2005, and Brady agreed. After James Hinson found a tracker on his police vehicle in early June, Wray began hearing rumors about a black book containing the photos of all of the department's black officers that supposedly was being shown to prostitutes and drug dealers to frame black officers. No evidence of such a book has ever been found.
After Wray suspended Hinson on June 17, 2005, the NAACP submitted a list of questions written by Hinson to City Manager Ed Kitchen. One of those questions was about a black book. Wray thought that these rumors might be related to a photo lineup of black officers. He asked Brady to find out if any such lineups had been created. Only two incidences were discovered. One was the lineups that included 19 black officers that RMA labeled the black book.
Wray told Brady to get the lineups, which had been created only five months earlier, and secure them so he could be certain they were not being used illicitly. Wray said he told Mitch Johnson about the lineups at their regular monthly meeting several days later, and Johnson expressed no concern about them. Johnson was deputy manager at the time.
The lineups were in a black binder that was the casebook for the investigation of the prostitute's claim of being molested. Brady first kept the book in his desk. But after a few days, he told Wray that he was concerned about its security because he couldn't lock his desk and too many people had access to his office. He suggested keeping it in the trunk of his police vehicle, where only he would have access to it. Wray agreed.
Wray and Brady told RMA investigators that Wray had ordered that the case book be secured, and Brady immediately informed the investigators that the book was in the trunk of his police vehicle when asked about its location. Despite this, the RMA report maintains that the book was hidden.
The RMA report's claim that the existence of the book had not been disclosed is false. When the city attorney's investigation began in September 2005, Brady turned over documents describing the lineups as well as the criminal investigation that caused their creation. The report prepared by the assistant city attorneys cites these documents and the report as well as the documents were available to RMA investigators.
In the fall of 2008, Mitch Johnson wrote in a sworn statement related to a public records lawsuit that the black book was created for a legitimate investigation and that the city had no evidence that it had been used for any other purpose.
Analysis of the RMA report's conclusions will continue in the next installment of Cops in Black & White.