Suing Officers Troll For Money, Part 91
Cops in Black & White by Jerry Bledsoe, Part 91
January 07, 2010
On Dec. 7, 2009, 39 black Greensboro police officers filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Greensboro claiming racial discrimination and civil rights violations. This is the second time they have sued the city.
On Jan. 9, 2009, the officers filed suit in state court. That suit also claimed racial discrimination and violation of the state Equal Employment Practices. It was amended in March with claims of conspiracy and breach of contract. In April, the city got the case moved to federal court.
The two suits are much the same, but they do have some differences. The first court suit also included as defendants former Police Chief David Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady, who are white. When the suit was amended in March, former Special Intelligence Detective Scott Sanders and City Councilmember Trudy Wade also became defendants. Sanders' racial designation is Pacific Islander. Wade is white.
Wray, Brady, Sanders and Wade are not defendants in the new suit. That's because it was filed under Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act, and such suits can be filed only against institutions, not individuals. The US Department of Justice considered taking on this suit but declined after a lengthy investigation.
Another difference is that the original suit was filed by 40 officers, not 39. Two officers named Stevenson, Darryl and Eric, are listed as plaintiffs in that suit. Darryl Stevenson is not included as a plaintiff in the new suit, although he later is identified in it as a citizen and resident of Guilford County. Eric Stevenson is a plaintiff in the new suit but no mention of his citizenship or residency appears. Likely this is an oversight on the part of lawyers and the number of officers suing in federal court will be adjusted to 40.
The original suit mentioned an unnamed weekly newspaper, which published names of the plaintiffs before the suit was filed. The plaintiffs and their lawyers didn't like that. The newspaper is The Rhino Times. The names were published in November 2008. At that time the City Council, as ridiculous as it may sound, was planning to settle with the officers for $750,000 without knowing the identities of the officers or how they supposedly had been discriminated against.
The officers had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April 2006, but their names and the specifics of their claims had been kept secret. The Rhino Times found the names in a city contract it received after a public records request. Publication of the names, which included an assistant chief, two captains, two lieutenants and 14 sergeants, created public indignation that prompted the council to withdraw its offer of a settlement. Some of the officers had records of misbehavior.
The original suit claimed that a public document containing the names of the officers did not exist but that was false. The document is a contract between the City of Greensboro and two federal agencies. It required the city to list any pending complaints of discrimination. It was a public document. The Rhino Times offered to supply a copy to the lawyers representing the officers, Ken Free and Jason Knight, but they did not respond. Free is black. Knight is white.
Nothing about The Rhino Times or the publication of the plaintiffs' names appears in the new suit.
This suit, like the first, is based on bogus allegations, most of them regarding the so-called "black book." That was a case book created in February 2005, for an investigation instigated by a Vice and Narcotics detective. A prostitute who was an informant told the detective that she had been sexually molested by a black, uniformed, on-duty officer who said he needed to search her motel room as well as her body for drugs.
The case was assigned to Scott Sanders and his sergeant, Tom Fox, who is white. The incident had occurred several months earlier and the prostitute couldn't remember the exact day. The detectives got motel records for the period when the prostitute was staying there. They did a computer search to determine which uniformed black officers had been on duty in the area of the motel in the time span of the incident for the period the prostitute was at the motel. They came up with 19 officers. They created 19 photo lineups to show to the prostitute. Each contained the photo of one black officer and photos of five other black males with similar characteristics taken from public records. The prostitute was not able to positively identify her assailant. The lineups became part of the case file, which was contained in a black binder.
Only one black officer fell under investigation after these lineups were created and while David Wray remained chief. That was Lt. James Hinson, who created a crisis for the Police Department in early June 2005, after finding a tracker on his police cruiser and going public with claims that he and other black officers had been targeted for investigation by secret police because of race. Hinson's photo did not appear in the lineups that were shown to the prostitute, and nobody who was questioned during Hinson's investigation was shown any lineups.
Despite numerous investigations, no evidence has ever been presented that any other book containing lineups with photos of black officers was ever created, and none was, said Wray and Brady.
But the suit by the 39 officers says that Wray and Brady ordered the creation of numerous "line-up books and other visual aids … for the purpose of framing, embarrassing and wrongfully investigating and charging black officers with crimes, offenses and violations. …" What the phrase "other visual aids" might entail is not defined.
The suit also maintains that all 39 plaintiffs believe that their "photographs, likenesses, and/or names were included in at least one version of the Line-up Books."
Obviously, 39 officers could not fit into the 19 photo lineups in the only known book containing lineups of black officers. Thus it was necessary for the plaintiffs and their lawyers to create additional non-existent line-up books. Investigations by the FBI, the SBI, the Greensboro Police Department and the US Department of Justice have turned up no other books containing photo lineups of black officers.
In actuality, only 16 of the plaintiffs appeared in the lineups that were shown to the prostitute. That leaves the other 23 plaintiffs without any claim of discrimination by the so-called black book.
It also needs to be noted that police officers should be aware that names and likenesses other than photos are not used in photo lineups. Only numbers and photos appear.
The suit goes on to claim that by showing these supposed line-up books to "members of the general public, including known convicted criminals and criminal suspects" black officers working undercover were exposed.
All 19 officers in the only known book with lineups were uniformed patrol officers. Patrol officers do not work undercover. If they did, it would seem that wearing police uniforms might be a less than effective disguise. No evidence has been presented of black undercover officers being exposed, and David Wray and Randall Brady say they know of no such incidence or of any black officers who were working undercover at the time.
After former City Manager Mitch Johnson ordered investigations of black officers' allegations in 2005, two immensely flawed reports were prepared by city attorneys and a private security firm, Risk Management Associates (RMA) of Raleigh. The purpose of the reports, which were filled with falsehoods and distorted facts, appeared to be to prepare guidebooks for lawsuits against the city.
But the two lawsuits by the 39, or 40, black officers make little use of these reports. Instead they depend in large degree on statements made by Mitch Johnson about the black book.
Two of those statements are:
"If I were a black officer, I would have been damned uncomfortable to be in that book."
"If I was a black officer, I would certainly feel targeted."
The suit goes on to say: "In addition, Mr. Johnson, publicly announced in January 2006 that there were 'numerous instances of the [Line-Up Books] being shown to criminal defendants in an attempt to target black officers among the 19 pictured in the book' and that criminal defendants and/or suspects were told by the police officers who presented the Line-Up Books to such persons, 'If you ID an officer [in the Line-Up Books], we might help you out.'"
Johnson made no mention of multiple books.
At the time Johnson was making these statements, he had examined the case book and it was in the possession of interim Chief Tim Bellamy, who is black. The book contained not only the lineups but every document about the case, as well as recordings of the interviews with the prostitute and the computer assisted dispatch records that were used to determine which officers were in the lineups. Bellamy had to have recognized that the case book was legitimate. And neither he nor Johnson had any evidence that the lineups in the book had been used illicitly or shown to anybody other than the prostitute. But it would be nearly three years later before Johnson acknowledged that under oath in a court document.
The suit goes on to claim that "no such sexual assault by a uniformed black officer of the Greensboro Police Department was reported or occurred, and that none of the Line-Up Books were limited to uniformed black officers … who were on duty on a particular shift."
This claim was based on misleading statements that Bellamy made to reporters and city councilmembers early in 2006, although the suit doesn't mention that. However, subsequent investigations contradict this claim. Detectives tracked down the prostitute in Washington, DC, and she verified the assault claim and the investigation. Internal Affairs confirmed that the investigation of the prostitute's allegations was legitimate and that claims that the lineups were used for other purposes were unfounded. The Police Department hasn't made this information known, but Mitch Johnson admitted in the court document that the lineups were created for a legitimate investigation and that the city has no documented evidence that they were shown to anybody but the prostitute.
The lawsuit also provides a glimpse into what it claims to be the findings of the EEOC in this matter. It attributes this to EEOC:
"Testimonial and documentary evidence confirms that [Defendant Greensboro's Police Department's] Chief of Police maintained a book which contained personal and confidential information on Black police officers, along with their pictures (hereinafter the "black book"). The evidence shows that all Black police officers were targeted by the Chief of Police for potential inclusion in this black book. Furthermore, the evidence supports that said black book was used by [the Police Department] to obtain incriminating evidence on its Black police officer[s]. A review of the record shows that Non-Black officers were not subject to this treatment during their employment with Respondent. Therefore, the evidence shows that all of Respondent's Black officers were subject to discrimination based on their race, Black."
The "testimonial and documentary evidence" that confirms this is not provided. That's because it doesn't exist. Wray maintained no book containing personal and confidential information on black officers as well as their photos. Nothing shows that Wray targeted all black officers for possible inclusion in any such book. And the EEOC would have had no access to records that would have allowed it to determine that black officers were subject to such treatment when white officers weren't.
If these truly are the findings of the EEOC, it is proof that the EEOC did no investigation and created these fabrications based solely on what black officers said. This should call into question any findings by the EEOC, on which governmental bodies make substantial cash settlements with public funds and no proof. In this case, the test will be to see what evidence lawyers for the black officers present in support of the EEOC claims if the case goes to trial.
The suit also maintains that the Special Intelligence unit was never intended to be used to investigate officers and that such investigations were not allowed by departmental directives. The plaintiffs maintain that white officers were not investigated by the unit, and that Wray and Brady turned Special Intelligence into "an instrument for illegally investigating black officers." On several occasions, the suit claims, Wray and Brady instructed Special Intelligence detectives to investigate black officers "and their family members even when no complaints had been made against the officers."
None of this is true. From the time Special Intelligence was created in 1980 chiefs used it for sensitive internal investigations, and this is allowed by departmental directives. Officers of all colors were investigated under chiefs black and white. No chief used the unit for this purpose more than Robert White, whom Wray succeeded. At one point, White, who is black, required that all internal investigations be handled by Special Intelligence. It was White who first assigned the unit to investigate James Hinson after Hinson's telephone numbers were found in the possession of cocaine cartel kingpin Elton Turnbull. Special Intelligence did not instigate internal investigations on its own. It investigated complaints that came from outside law enforcement agencies and from other divisions in the department. No officers were investigated without legitimate cause, and no family members of officers were investigated.
The suit also brings up James Hinson's 1997 bachelor party at which open sexual acts took place between strippers and police officers. This was an outgrowth of the investigation assigned by Robert White. The reason for this aspect of the investigation was that the strippers told detectives that "police parties" with prostitutes had occurred regularly and were ongoing.
According to the suit only black officers were investigated while "the only white officer who attended the party was not investigated or even interviewed by SID [Special Intelligence Division]." Actually, although detectives sought to identify officers who attended the party, none were individually investigated. No black officers were interviewed about the party. Three white officers attended the party, but originally detectives were aware of only one, who was referred to by the strippers as the "white shadow." This turned out to be the sergeant in Special Intelligence, who eventually confided his presence to the captain who oversaw Special Intelligence and Internal Affairs at the time, Dwight Crotts. Crotts, who is white, decided that there was no purpose in interviewing the sergeant. Crotts also oversaw the review of Hinson's many questionable activities that determined that no Internal Affairs investigation was necessary. Bellamy later promoted Crotts to assistant chief.
Wray and Brady, the suit alleges, instructed Special Intelligence detectives to direct non-sworn employees and hired informants to offer bribes, prostitution and stolen goods to black officers, as well as to request restricted police information from them in order to test their honesty and ruin their careers and reputations. No names or examples are offered.
However, the suit does provide a source in support of these contentions. That is a passage from a report prepared by Gil Kleinknecht, an international police authority. On the recommendation of black former Chief Sylvester Daughtry, Wray hired Kleinknecht to review the department's practices in the summer of 2005 during the crisis created by James Hinson. The suit says that Kleinknecht was representing the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), but that is not true. He was a private consultant.
The suit says that Kleinknecht "chastised" the department for the alleged attempts to test the honesty of black officers. Nowhere in the report does Kleinknecht do that. And the passage from the report that the plaintiffs cite totally contradicts their claim. It clearly states that the department doesn't permit such "investigative schemes."
The suit, however, says that such schemes "continued even after the explicit instructions against such investigations provided in the July 27, 2005 Report." No such schemes ever were employed, said Wray and Brady.
Wray repeatedly failed to promote black officers, the suit says, and when he did promote them did so "only for the purpose of giving the appearance of equal treatment."
Wray recalls that he promoted at least 27 black officers during his two-year-and-five-month tenure, and he doesn't believe that any previous chief had promoted that many over a similar period. He restored the position of deputy chief and designated Asst. Chief Tony Scales, who is black, to the position. He promoted Tim Bellamy to assistant chief, as well as Annie Stevenson, who was the first black female to rise so high in the department. He also promoted Brian James, who is black, to lieutenant and made him his executive assistant.
However, the plaintiffs maintain that after promoting Bellamy and Stevenson, Wray "excluded them from the decision-making process." That is absurd, Wray said, and he would love to see the evidence of it.
This claim raises the question of whether Bellamy has been providing information to the black officers to assist in their suit against the city. Ron Rogers, whom Bellamy promoted to assistant chief, is a plaintiff in the suit. He and Bellamy have been longtime friends and confidantes. It would seem unlikely that Rogers could have risen to the second highest position in the department while being discriminated against in promotions.
Of the 39 officers who are plaintiffs in the federal suit, only two are named as victims of specific discrimination. They are Ernest Cuthbertson and Steven Evans.
Cuthbertson was a detective in Special Intelligence, which black officers labeled the secret police. The lawsuit says he was one of only two black officers in the unit during Wray's tenure. Actually, three black officers served in the unit while Wray was chief. The others were Julius Fulmore and Norman Rankin. Since the unit had slots for only five officers that meant it had a far greater percentage of blacks than the department as a whole.
Cuthbertson was assigned to gather intelligence on gangs, and he spent a lot of time speaking and teaching about gang activity and how to counter it.
The suit claims that Cuthbertson was frequently instructed to single-handedly investigate "fabricated criminal activity concocted by white members of SID as a ruse so that in Cuthbertson's absence the remaining members could investigate black officers." This claim, says Brady, is not only false but outrageous. If fabricated investigations were created, Cuthbertson had a responsibility to come to him about it, Brady said, but he didn't. Cuthbertson worked regularly alongside the other officers in Special Intelligence, Brady said, and only occasionally when circumstances required it did he receive other assignments.
Steven Evans, according to the suit, was chosen to attend the North Carolina Justice Academy in Salemburg for firearms instructor training but Wray "supplied him only with enough ammunition to get through the first day of the program and, to add insult to injury, refused to pay for his lodging." The suit says that Evans was able to complete the course "only because he himself advanced thousands of dollars for his ammunition and lodging expenses." The suit goes on say that Wray "designated white officers, and not Plaintiff Evans, as instructors of marksmanship at the local Community Colleges and or the Greensboro Police Academy for which the instructors are compensated."
Wray said the first he heard about this was when he read it in the lawsuit. Neither he nor any other chief had anything to do with designating who taught off-duty at community colleges, Wray said. According to Brady, Evans did teach firearms training at the Police Academy.
Officers who attended training at Salemburg stayed free of charge in a dormitory, usually two to a room, and ate in a cafeteria for which every officer was paid a per-diem amount. Greensboro officers attending firearms training picked up standard amounts of ammunition suggested by the Justice Academy from the department's supply section before leaving, Brady said, and if they thought they might need more, they were provided it.
Documents obtained through a public records request show that Evans drove a city vehicle to the Justice Academy on March 27 for the firearms course and returned on April 8. He was reimbursed $263.20 for meals while there. The handwritten expense document completed by Evans makes no mention of ammunition or thousands of dollars in personal expenses. And he told nothing about that to anybody in authority, Brady said. Evans attended two more courses at the Justice Academy while Wray was chief – Spanish for Investigators and Police Law Institute. Each time the city paid his expenses, which never included lodging. In 2003, shortly before Wray became chief, the city paid $869.64, full expenses, for Evans to attend the annual conference of the North State Law Enforcement Officers Association, a black group, in Fayetteville. Since the lawsuit was filed Evans has resigned from the Police Department.
Attorneys for the black officers have not made known their reasons for filing the new suit, but it may have been done in an attempt to pressure the new City Council for a settlement. Several councilmembers have said that they oppose a settlement and the case needs to go to trial. And on Nov. 24 they received support from the News & Record.
"… It's clear that an out-of-court settlement was and still is the wrong choice," the newspaper said in an editorial. "More preferable is hearing testimony under oath and making available official documents at the city's disposal."