Bellamy Fanning Flames of Fracas
February 25, 2010
"Employees are required to be truthful at all times, whether under oath or not."
– Greensboro Police Department directive 1.5.3
Anybody even remotely familiar with the Greensboro Police Department's multitude of tribulations over the past half-decade would have to wonder why Chief Tim Bellamy decided to contribute to them last week by helping WFMY News 2 to perpetrate a fraud.
Bellamy sat for an interview with News 2's Mac Ingraham. He was in uniform. The interview was divided into two segments, the first presented on the 6 p.m. news Thursday, Feb. 18, the second at 11 that night. Both segments were tantalizingly and sensationally ballyhooed as 2-Wants-to-Know exclusives in promos during the afternoon and evening programming.
The first segment was devoted to the so-called "black book" and the alleged "secret police." Both have since been proven to be fabrications by thorough and lengthy Internal Affairs investigations, the findings of which were signed by Bellamy. But if you weren't aware of that you never would have guessed it from this portion of Bellamy's interview.
It begins with Ingraham doing a standup alongside a photo of Bellamy under which "Bellamy Speaks Out" appears in large letters.
"When Greensboro Police Chief Bellamy took over," Ingraham says, "he had to deal with two major issues – the black book, a book containing the photos and info on many black officers, and a controversial special investigative unit."
The shot switches to a close-up of Bellamy.
"They was [sic] dubbed the secret police," Bellamy says, "and I wanted to dispel any future concerns that there's some secret police unit within the Police Department that is investigating police officers, citizens, and that that unit would have a layer of accountability, supervision and oversight."
While Bellamy was saying this, video of a police car with blue lights flashing and the shoulder of a uniformed officer with stripes on his sleeve appeared on the screen, although no uniformed officers were in the so-called secret police.
"It was one of Tim Bellamy's first duties as chief to reorganize the Special Intelligence unit at the center of controversy under the former chief, David Wray," Ingraham says in a voice-over as the screen flashes to scenes from Bellamy's swearing in ceremony in 2007, and a glimpse of Wray before the camera turns back to Bellamy.
"I think for the integrity of the organization at that time, and I still feel that same way now, but integrity of the organization we had to make these changes just for the officers' sake and for the department's sake," Bellamy says.
"Has it worked?" Ingraham asks.
"Yes," Bellamy responds. "That unit is more focused on what it's supposed to be, subversive groups, threats to government officials, and things such as that. But not focusing on investigating police employees."
Let's pause to see how this stacks up with reality so far.
Hardly at all.
The problems with it are many. All of these troubles started in 2005 with claims by black officers that they had been targeted for investigation by secret police because of race. But an FBI investigation early in 2006 found no civil rights violations. An SBI investigation that went on for a year and a half produced no charges related to race or secret police. Numerous Internal Affairs investigations, some lasting for more than three years, determined that investigations of black officers had been for legitimate reasons, not race, and that the officers conducting them had committed no wrongdoing. However, Detective Scott Sanders, who was portrayed as the ringleader of the secret police, was counseled for two minor infractions – using profanity when interrogating a suspect who was not a police employee and failing to provide the suspect with a required document for evidence taken during an allowed search.
Bellamy signed the findings of all of these investigations. Shouldn't he have mentioned them and their crucial outcomes, which disputed the whole notion of secret police and improper investigations? He didn't.
Instead, in describing his reorganization of Special Intelligence, Bellamy speaks only of dispelling future concerns about secret police, leaving the impression that during Wray's tenure secret police had indeed been allowed to fraudulently investigate citizens as well as officers.
Bellamy's mention of citizens is an allusion to claims that black community leaders were secretly recorded at Wray's direction for sinister purposes. That was false, and Bellamy knew it, but he and former City Manager Mitch Johnson allowed the public to believe it was true. The Internal Affairs investigation determined that the Police Department had no recordings of community leaders and that none had been under surveillance even though Bellamy had publicly proclaimed that to be so.
The implication of Bellamy's statements about his reorganization is that, under Wray, Special Intelligence operated without accountability, supervision or oversight and focused on investigating officers. This was not true either. Investigating officers was a minor part of the unit's many duties under Wray and it was not unique to his administration.
Bellamy knew that from the time Special Intelligence was created in 1980, chiefs had used it for sensitive internal investigations that required confidentiality, and departmental directives allow that. Both black chiefs, Sylvester Daughtry and Robert White, had used the unit for those purposes, White far more than any other chief. In fact, Wray cut back on White's extensive use of the unit for investigating officers and expanded its responsibilities.
Bellamy's implication that Special Intelligence was without accountability and oversight under Wray is contradicted by a national police authority, Gil Kleinknecht, who examined the unit's operations in the summer of 2005. Special Intelligence had been a sister unit of Internal Affairs, but Wray moved it to the Operations Bureau to give it a bigger role in planning for major events in the city. Kleinknecht declared this decision to be correct and consistent with best police practices and found the unit to have a clear chain of command and supervision at the highest level.
It's unclear which officers Bellamy was referring to when he said that in order to restore integrity he had to reorganize Special Intelligence for the "officers' sake." It seems that he meant for the sake of officers who were falsely claiming that they had been investigated because of race. It certainly couldn't have been for the sake of the detectives in Special Intelligence who were removed from their jobs, placed under intensive investigation and treated grievously, although none of them had done anything wrong.
Mac Ingraham's switch from secret police to the black book was abrupt. After Bellamy said that Special Intelligence was no longer investigating police employees, an image appeared of a black binder, thick with pages, on a desk top.
"Such as with the infamous black book, that contained photos of black officers," Ingraham said dramatically.
Viewers were led to believe that this was the black book.
It wasn't. It was a fake.
This is from Lt. Hope Newkirk, the Police Department spokesperson: "Chief Bellamy did not allow News 2 to look at or video a book containing photos of African American officers which has been referred to as the Black Book."
That book was turned over to the SBI in June 2006, and remains in its custody.
This, however, wasn't the only thing fake in this 2-Wants-to-Know exclusive.
News 2's Frank Mickens has reported falsely about the black book for years, while ignoring newly disclosed evidence that came forward about it. So it's no surprise that Ingraham would do the same. His description of the book as "containing the photos and info on many black officers" is false.
The so-called black book is a casebook for an investigation into a prostitute's claim that she was sexually molested by a black, uniformed officer who searched her motel room pretending to look for drugs. The investigation began in January 2005. The prostitute was a police informant, but she did not report the incident until a few months later. Vice and Narcotics brought the investigation to Special Intelligence.
The prostitute wasn't certain of the exact date of the incident. Detectives did a computer search to determine which black uniformed officers were on duty in the area of the motel during the period she was there. They came up with 19 names and prepared 19 photo lineups to show to her. That occurred in February. She thought that one officer might be the perpetrator but couldn't be certain. The case remained open.
For several years a rumor had existed that a book containing photos of all the department's black officers was being shown to drug dealers and prostitutes in attempts to frame black officers. Mitch Johnson seized on this rumor and the casebook involving the prostitute to create a myth he used as key evidence to lock Wray out of his office and force his resignation.
Bellamy took possession of the book soon after being named acting chief. He had to recognize it as a casebook. It contained all of the documents of the investigation as well as recordings of the interviews. Yet Bellamy misled the City Council in closed session, and the public, by claiming that the department had no evidence of any such investigation.
Later, Criminal Investigations Division Commander Gary Hastings sent detectives to Washington, DC, to track down the prostitute, who confirmed the investigation. However, that interview, along with other evidence, was withheld from the SBI.
In the fall of 2008, in a sworn interrogatory for a lawsuit filed against the city by attorney Sam Spagnola and Greensboro 101 proprietor Roch Smith, Mitch Johnson finally acknowledged that the black book was created for a legitimate investigation and the city had no evidence that it ever was used for any other purpose. Neither News 2 nor the News & Record reported that.
Ingraham's description of the black book made it appear to be the nefarious tool that Mickens has always claimed it to be, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The book does contain the photos of "many" black officers, so long as the count doesn't go beyond 19. But it contains no information about those officers, as Ingraham contended. Photo lineups have numbers, nothing else. Neither Ingraham nor News Director Jim Platzer responded to questions emailed to them about Bellamy's interview. Bellamy also didn't respond to questions about it.
Oddly, for all the build-up, Bellamy had little to say about the black book. But what he said made little sense.
"I can only speak for myself personally. I'm not going to speak as a police chief. If the book was there, with whatever the tenet was [Although he said "tenet" he likely meant "whatever the intent of it was."] and the people in the book was [sic] not notified that their pictures were being shown, then I have a [sic] issue with that, but that's just me."
First, if you are submitting to an interview, if you are in uniform with the chief's badge shining on your chest, you are speaking as the chief and for the department whether or not you maintain otherwise.
Second, what on earth could Bellamy have meant by "if the book was there?" He had possession of it. He turned it over to the SBI. It was there when he had it. If he couldn't comprehend its intent from its contents, to learn them he needed only to read the findings of the Internal Affairs investigations that he signed.
Third, his statement reveals that he is either ignorant of investigative procedures or he believes that police officers suspected of criminal activity should be treated differently from others. Detectives do not inform criminal suspects that their pictures are going to be shown to victims in photo lineups. That could endanger victims and thwart investigations.
The second segment of Bellamy's interview was touted as a showdown between Bellamy and newly elected Mayor Bill Knight, and it centered on race. It was introduced by Frank Mickens.
"Tonight 2 Wants to Know speaks exclusively with Police Chief Tim Bellamy who says he's retiring in part because the Greensboro mayor says Bellamy's race got him the job. … Bellamy spoke about the mayor's comments with our Mac Ingraham."
Ingraham appears on screen, again standing by a photo of Bellamy.
"The controversy centers around Mayor Bill Knight's run for office," he says. "On the campaign trail he stated the primary reason Bellamy got the job as chief was because of his race. Bellamy, who is black, has his own thoughts about that."
Bellamy appears on screen in a close-up.
"For somebody to say that about the color of your skin, you got the job just because of the color of your skin, that hurt," he says. "It not only hurt me, it hurt a lot of citizens of Greensboro that I have spoken to. They thought it was very inappropriate for him to say so."
Images of Bill Knight campaigning flash on the screen as Ingraham speaks in a voice-over.
"Chief Bellamy feels Mayor Bill Knight was out of line. He says during last year's run for mayor he became aware that then candidate Knight openly questioned his qualifications to be chief, even bringing up race as a factor."
The camera switches back to Bellamy, seated in front of Ingraham.
"Does your retirement then have anything to do with him being elected mayor?" Ingraham asks.
"Well, I'd be lying if I said it didn't," Bellamy responds. "There's [sic] a lot of factors that went into my decision to retire in July. And that statement did weigh some into the equation."
City Councilmember Mary Rakestraw said she was shocked to hear that. She had been told about Bellamy's intention to retire well before the election, she said, and she even brought it up in her pre-election interview with the editorial board at the News & Record.
When Bellamy publicly announced his retirement on Jan. 19, he made no mention of the mayor's election being a factor. Indeed, News & Record reporter Ryan Seals reported after Bellamy's News 2 interview that in January Bellamy "said his retirement decision had nothing to do with Knight's election … but Bellamy went back on that statement Friday."
That brings irony to Bellamy's statement to Ingraham that "I'd be lying if I said it didn't." Was he lying in January?
Bellamy's proclamation of hurt from the mayor's comments rings hollow when compared to the damage wrought from an action of his own that was clearly racial. That was his reorganization of Special Intelligence, his first major act as interim chief.
The Special Intelligence unit had six members at the time. Five were full time. One, Randy Gerringer, was a former member of the unit who had been hired back part time. Three – Tom Fox, Bobby Edwards and Gerringer – are white. Sanders' racial designation is Pacific Islander, but he was considered to be white. Two, Ernest Cuthbertson and Norman Rankin, who had been in the unit only seven months, are black.
At one time or another, all had been engaged in investigations that involved black officers. Bellamy fired Gerringer and removed Fox, Sanders and Edwards from the unit. All were placed under intensive investigation. Cuthbertson and Rankin were allowed to remain in the unit and were not investigated. Bellamy later promoted Rankin and Cuthbertson.
Although it eventually would be shown that Fox, Sanders, Edwards and Gerringer had done nothing wrong, their reputations were stained and their chances for promotion nil. Eventually Fox and Sanders were criminally charged and suspended. They went a year and a half without paychecks. Sanders endured a week-long trial in which he was acquitted of accessing a federal computer that had been loaned to a black officer who fell under investigation. After the trial other charges against Sanders and Fox were dropped, but attorney fees had mounted for both.
Sanders' attorney bills were especially high, because he was named in civil suits brought by black officers based on false claims of racial targeting. City policy requires the city to pay legal fees for civil actions brought against employees, but the city has refused to do that in the cases of Sanders, Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady.
Bellamy, meanwhile, still holds his prestigious job and high salary, and he is being allowed to retire with a far fatter pension because of his four years as chief and interim chief.
But his interview with News 2 may bring more troubles to the city. John Vermitsky, an attorney representing Fox and Sanders, said he was concerned to hear Bellamy suggesting that his clients had been "engaged in an improper purpose after they had been vindicated." He said he was "evaluating all legal alternatives at this point."