August 20, 2009
|Wray Worked To Quell Crisis, Part 83|
Cops in Black & White by Jerry Bledsoe, Part 83
"Secret police" targeting black officers because of race!
That inflammatory and implausible assertion in a News & Record column by Lorraine Ahearn in June 2005, set off divisive and damaging turmoil within the Police Department and the city. It continues more than four years later.
Ahearn, who is white, offered no evidence to back up this charge, only the claims of Lt. James Hinson and his lawyer, Joe Williams. Hinson, who was under investigation at the time and wanted it stopped, had much to gain from creating a crisis. Both Hinson and Williams are black. To this day, the News & Record still has not provided evidence that the charge was true.
Nevertheless, this ploy set in motion a series of events that includes a host of extended investigations, some of which have not yet been completed; the purging of much of the top leadership of the Police Department; numerous lawsuits against the city and others that are yet to be adjudicated; and the eventual dismissal of City Manager Mitch Johnson, who is white. All of this has come at a huge price to taxpayers, and the costs continue to mount.
It was Johnson who ordered the first of those investigations, which was conducted by two assistant city attorneys, one white, the other black, neither of them trained investigators. The report they produced was riddled with distortions, deception, innuendo, omissions of vital facts, and false conclusions. Johnson called in a private security company, Risk Management Associates (RMA) of Raleigh, to follow up on that investigation. In less than two months, RMA, which was paid more than $147,000 by the city, produced a 31-page report which contained not only the flaws of the city attorneys' report but more.
Johnson used the RMA report to force the resignation of Police Chief David Wray and to mount a racially-charged public campaign against Wray and white officers who had been involved in investigating black officers for reasons that no law enforcement agency could ignore. None of those investigations had originated in Special Intelligence.
A week after Ahearn's column, Wray, who is white, read a statement at a press conference in an attempt to quell the crisis created by Ahearn and Hinson, as well as to reassure the public. In that statement he said this about the so-called secret police:
"This charge is completely groundless and has no merit. The Special Intelligence Section, which has been the target of these secret police allegations, is a clearly defined component of the agency and provides legitimate and necessary services to the community."
He went on to explain the purpose and function of the unit, and said that he and his senior commanders had reviewed its operation and activities.
"I find no evidence that this unit is targeting any individual or group of individuals without justifiable reasons that can be easily and clearly articulated," he said. "The efforts of this unit are driven by the receipt of information that comes to its attention from a variety of sources.
"When this information is of such a nature that it has implications for the continued good name and integrity of the Greensboro Police Department, the Special Intelligence Section has, and will continue, to evaluate it and conduct investigations as required by the nature and veracity of the information.
"The citizens of this community have a right to expect that this department will act responsibly in these circumstances. To do otherwise would likely result in disrespect and distrust of the Greensboro Police Department. To the extent that it is humanly possible, I will not allow that to happen to this exemplary organization, nor to the men and women who serve it with such honor and distinction."
Despite this, the News & Record continued to write about the secret police and racial targeting as if they were reality. To the News & Record an unsubstantiated allegation by a black officer under investigation was deemed to be more valid than the word of a white police chief with an unblemished record.
Seven months later, the RMA report gave dubious validity to the News & Record's decision. That report was prepared by three private investigators, all of them white, all former law enforcement officers. Their findings about the secret police begin on page 24.
This section of the report starts with a mention of Wray's statement that allegations of secret police were groundless.
"Unfortunately," says the report, "that statement is not true.
"The GPD Special Intelligence Division is a well respected unit and has for years provided a valuable service to not only the citizens of Greensboro, but law enforcement across the state. However, the GPD has recently instituted a practice of investigating police officers outside of the established written procedures that guide an important and vital function of any police agency. A specific unit within the Intelligence Section has for the last three years been used for selective cases that have brought under scrutiny the tactics and motivation for its purposes."
Actually what isn't true are RMA's conclusions about the supposedly nefarious activities of Special Intelligence, for which no credible supporting evidence is supplied. The report cites no specific investigations and no explanation of how they were conducted outside departmental directives. Wray and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady say that didn't happen during Wray's two years and five months as chief, and they have no knowledge of it ever occurring.
RMA investigators didn't spend enough time to get a real perspective on the department's history and methods, Wray said. Several retired commanders and a former chief confirm that from the time Special Intelligence was organized in 1980 in response to the deadly confrontation between Klansmen, Nazis and Communist Workers Party members on Nov. 3, 1979, the unit was used to conduct preliminary investigations in sensitive internal cases. Black and white officers were investigated by Special Intelligence under chiefs black and white. It was not a recent practice, as pronounced by RMA.
Not only did the practice not begin recently, but no chief used Special Intelligence for this purpose more than former Chief Robert White, whose four-and-a-half-year tenure began in 1998 and ended at the beginning of 2003. White, who is black, ordered that all criminal investigations of officers be handled by Special Intelligence, as well as investigations of uses of force by officers. Directives were rewritten to codify that and this information was available to RMA investigators.
This contradicts the RMA claim that investigations were conducted outside established written procedures. The practice begun by White continued through the seven-month tenure of Interim Chief Tony Scales, who is black, and through the first year of Wray's administration.
One of the ways that Wray sought to quell the crisis created by Hinson and the News & Record was to bring in a nationally known police expert to examine the department's procedures and practices for handling internal investigations. That person was Gil Kleinknecht, who had been assistant director of the US Marshals Service and had served as a police consultant nationally and internationally. Kleinknecht completed his report on July 27, 2005.
RMA says that in his report Kleinknecht "recommends that if the GPD continues the use of the intelligence section to investigate police officers, changes need to reflect procedure in the written policies of the department. He also cautions that this use of intelligence units to investigate police misconduct be limited to 'extraordinary circumstances.' The report does not reference any review of or examination of the investigative or intelligence files or the investigative tactics related to the activities of the intelligence unit …"
Earlier in their report, the RMA investigators misrepresented what Kleinknecht wrote and here they do so again. Kleinknecht said nothing about making changes in written policies if the department continued to use Special Intelligence for internal investigations. His recommendation for a change in a directive concerned something else.
In September 2004, Wray disbanded the Special Investigations Division under which Special Intelligence and Internal Affairs had been co-equal units. Wray created a new division called Professional Standards that included Internal Affairs and units that prepared for accreditation and checked backgrounds on police recruits. He moved Special Intelligence so it could work more closely with the Operations Division.
A primary reason for doing this, he said, was because City Manager Ed Kitchen wanted the ability to quickly deploy a large group of officers to deal with major events and unexpected emergencies. Wray wanted Special Intelligence to work more closely with Operations in preparing for such incidents.
Because much of what Special Intelligence did was in service to the chief, Wray placed the unit under the office of the deputy chief, who answered directly to him. He also promoted Randall Brady to succeed Tony Scales as deputy chief. Later, however, the News & Record and Mitch Johnson, without citing any evidence, portrayed this as a sinister move to advantage the supposed racial profiling purposes of the secret police.
Kleinknecht's recommendation for a change in written policy was in regard to the realignment of Special Intelligence. He suggested that a directive about employee misconduct be rewritten to reflect that the deputy chief, to whom Special Intelligence now answered directly, was responsible for managing criminal investigations of employees.
It should be noted that the RMA report makes no mention that Kleinknecht determined that Wray's move of Special Intelligence "was the correct decision and consistent with the best practices within the police community." Neither does RMA report that Kleinknecht wrote that the department was "performing at a high standard" in all areas including internal investigations and that he was unable to verify that the department operated a secret police unit, something that the News & Record also failed to report in its article about Kleinknecht's findings.
Kleinknecht did write that because of the many duties assigned to Special Intelligence and its limited staff, criminal investigations of employees shouldn't be assigned to the unit "unless there are extraordinary circumstances."
Wray said that only cases of that nature ever had been assigned to Special Intelligence. The department had a problem with leaks of confidential information both internally and externally, he said. The cases assigned to Special Intelligence were only those that could be damaged or that could adversely affect other investigations by the department or other agencies if word got out. Special Intelligence was a small unit of veteran detectives experienced in protecting information.
In his report Kleinknecht makes clear that he left open the option of using Special Intelligence in certain internal investigations. He also cites this passage from a directive of which he approved: "The Chief of Police shall retain authority to authorize or supersede any administrative investigative procedure."
This passage further contradicts RMA's claim that internal investigations by Special Intelligence were outside the established written procedures, because the chief was authorized to assign any unit or detective he desired to conduct any investigation.
RMA's contention that Kleinknecht's report doesn't "reference any review of or examination of the investigative or intelligence files or the investigative tactics related to the activities of the intelligence unit and Sanders" also is questionable.
Kleinknecht notes in his report that he examined "several" closed files of both administrative and criminal internal investigations but he doesn't name them. Whether any of those involved investigations by Special Intelligence is not known. It was the responsibility of RMA to determine which files Kleinknecht examined before making such a claim, but apparently that didn't happen.
The RMA report goes on to say that "assigning non-police hire-back private investigators to conduct surveillance of and investigate police officers could also be considered an effort to further the 'secrecy" of this unit's [Special Intelligence] activity." It doesn't identify these private investigators, offer any details about the surveillance and investigations of police officers they supposedly conducted, or explain how they furthered secrecy.
An investigative report is supposed to provide specific facts about every claim it makes, and RMA's investigators, all former law enforcement officers, had to be aware of that. Yet this report makes brash statement after brash statement without supplying any evidence whatever. In this incidence, their allegations amounted to gross exaggeration.
In the summer of 2004, Wray hired back a former Special Intelligence detective, Randy Gerringer, to help plan for the massive march that was expected to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the deadly clash of Nov. 3, 1979, and to protect a truth and reconciliation commission that later would be looking into the incident. Gerringer, who is white, was a former police officer who again became a police officer when he was hired back.
In the spring of 2005, Gerringer's sergeant, Tom Fox, asked him to conduct periodic surveillance of James Hinson after federal authorities informed the Police Department that for a second time Hinson's telephone numbers had been found in the possession of a major drug dealer. According to Gerringer, the unit was short-handed at the time that Fox asked him for the favor and he agreed. He conducted no investigation of Hinson or any other officers, he said.
The RMA report next offers this passage: "The 'secret police' unit of the Greensboro Police Department is embedded within the Special Investigative Division's Special Intelligence Section. It consisted of Scott Sanders, sometimes his sergeant, and anyone else Sanders drafted to assist him in his investigative activity.
"The unit was under the supervision of the Deputy Police Chief. Its secrecy was in part maintained by the fact that over the last three years, Brady has been placed in charge of the unit's activities even though he has moved within the organization and/or been promoted several times. The unit moved with him and so did his direct contact and his direct report to Wray. This suggests a deliberate effort by the Chief to keep Brady in a position to keep him informed of sensitive and secret activity of this unit."
This is not only false, but another example of RMA making extravagant claims without evidence.
Sanders, whose race is classified Pacific Islander, was first assigned to investigate James Hinson in October 2002, by Capt. J.K. Davis, who is black, with the approval of Chief Robert White, after Hinson's telephone numbers were found in the possession of cocaine cartel kingpin Elton Turnbull, who is black. RMA says that investigations by the secret police unit dated back three years from the time of RMA's investigation in the fall of 2005. That would mean it started with the investigation of Hinson's involvement with Turnbull. A white federal task force detective, Brian Bissett, also was assigned to this investigation by Davis and White.
Were White and Davis creating the secret police to target Hinson because of race? Why would black commanders do that? Not only does the RMA report offer no explanation for this, it never even acknowledges it.
RMA identifies Sanders, sometimes his sergeant, and other officers Sanders drafted to help him as members of the secret police. Sanders had two sergeants during the years 2002-2005, both white. They were Craig McMinn and Tom Fox, who assumed the job in December 2004. RMA doesn't identify them or the officers Sanders supposedly drafted for his activities. Wouldn't these officers have been aware that they were part of the secret police targeting black officers because of race? Would they risk their careers by willingly participating in investigations conducted only because of skin color?
A true investigative report would identify these officers and lay out the specifics of their wrongdoing. All of them would have been required to answer questions truthfully at the potential cost of their jobs. But they weren't interviewed by the RMA investigators, who instead preferred to make vague allegations against them without supporting evidence.
According to the RMA report, the deputy chief supervised the secret police. That wasn't possible from October 2002, until August 2003, when RMA contends the secret police were operating, because the department had no deputy chief during that time. Wray restored that position and appointed the interim chief, Tony Scales, to the job on Sept. 1, 2003. Scales is black. If RMA is to be believed, a black deputy chief supervised secret police targeting black officers because of race for a full year before his retirement in the summer of 2004 and raised no concerns about it.
It was not true that control of the secret police moved with Randall Brady. He was the captain over Special Investigations, which included Special Intelligence, when Hinson was investigated in 2002 and early 2003. But in August of 2003, he was promoted to assistant chief and placed in charge of Operations Bureau 2 and Criminal Investigations, with no oversight of Special Intelligence. Capt. Dwight Crotts, now an assistant chief, was placed in command of Special Investigations. Crotts is white. When Special Investigations was disbanded, Crotts was put in command of Professional Standards, which included Internal Affairs.