Cop Out: The Aftermath
City responds with nothing, then everything
The revelations of last week's cover story, "Cop Out," inspired a special city council meeting last Monday at which Springfield Police Department Chief John Harris was the guest of honor. Aldermen Frank Kunz and Frank McNeil repeatedly asked the chief and the SPD's legal counsel, William Workman, how they could sit by without correcting media reports that Renatta Frazier somehow failed to prevent the rape of another officer's daughter when, in fact, the rape had occurred before Frazier was called to the scene.
As Harris and Workman performed their two-man tap routine about confidentiality of personnel records (at one point, Workman said Frazier's records couldn't be released until and unless she submitted a waiver written on SPD letterhead), the standing-room-only crowd groaned and jeered, giving Mayor Karen Hasara's gavel hand a real workout.
The mayor's mantra at this meeting: mistakes were made; let's move on. She volunteered that she believes there is racism in the Springfield police department, but reassured the audience that she has already had a couple of meetings with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and will consult them about revising some SPD policies, "possibly even" establishing a citizens review panel. The audience didn't seem completely comforted by that pledge.
NOBLE's first bit of consultation to the mayor may be to revamp the entire department. Rodney Williams, president of the St. Louis chapter of NOBLE, has called SPD's track record "an embarrassment to true law enforcement professionals throughout the country."
But the mayor's main strategy focused on the full and free release of every shred of information the city has on Frazier. Completely reversing the line of reasoning proffered by Harris and Workman, Hasara proclaimed, "I want everything released to the public. God knows, I want everything out there." Later, she reiterated, "Alright, I give permission. Let everything be released to the public."
Less than 24 hours later, the mayor's wish was granted. Tuesday afternoon, the department's internal affairs interview tapes were being played by Jim Leach on WMAY Hot Talk 970 for drive-time listeners. The State Journal-Register, which had originally published the erroneous version of events, was handed "hundreds of pages of documents."
The one person apparently not given the complete press pack on Frazier? Her attorney, Courtney Cox, who had already filed a handful of Freedom of Information Act requests, all denied.
And just imagine, this without permission from Frazier, or from her attorney--certainly without that necessary signed waiver on Springfield Police Department letterhead.
At Monday night's council session, Hasara promised that these documents will prove that the City of Springfield gave Frazier special beneficial treatment. "It will come out that this department did a lot of things to help Renatta Frazier, things that were not done for other officers," Hasara said. Similarly, chief Harris has publicly promised that Frazier was guilty of "other things" he couldn't mention that would justify investigation by his department
As of press time, the details of that special treatment and of those "other things" have not been discovered or disclosed by the media. Instead, the distribution of the tapes and documents may have backfired.
Callers to Leach's radio show--where SPD lieutenant Rickey Davis, vice president of the African-American officers' group Black Guardians, has been "butthead of the week" on more than one occasion--expressed outrage after hearing excerpts from the tapes Tuesday.
"What kind of an idiot would order an officer to undergo a hearing or interrogation when . . . a doctor has stated she should not?" one caller asked. "This is the most asinine thing I've ever heard. . . . It will be interesting when all the facts come out, the city is going to lose their A."
Another caller, describing herself as a retired registered nurse, called the internal affairs interrogation "very inhumane."
Cox has run out of printable analogies and metaphors. "Just when I think they've reached the depths of being jerks," he says, "they reach new depths of, well, of being jerks."
Now, the news
From the perspective of Frazier's supporters, the most potentially damaging revelation contained in the files released this week by the city is in the transcript of Lieutenant Mark Harms' interview with the rape victim about one month after the incident. In that interview, the victim says she came and stood out on her porch to attract the attention of the police officer in the parking lot, and that there was no way the officer would not have seen her.
In this interview, she consistently refers to the officer as "she" until Harms asks if she actually saw the officer. Then the victim says no, and Harms asks, "OK, so how do you know it's a she?" After that, she uses the term "they." She emphasizes that she wanted a police officer to come to her door, yet acknowledges that she didn't state that request to the dispatcher.
From the perspective of SPD, the most potentially damaging revelation is probably the fact that each internal-affairs complaint against Frazier originated inside the department. The "traffic stop" incident--in which Frazier, off-duty, has an encounter with a motorist--reads like a he-said-she-said saga in which both parties race to their cell phones and dial SPD to give their side of the story. Each accuses the other of unsafe driving and use of profanity. But perhaps the salient point is that the SPD dispatcher tells the motorist--whose name, age, address, occupation, and employer have all been redacted--to drive straight to SPD headquarters and file a complaint against Frazier. The motorist is somewhat reluctant to do so, but the dispatcher politely orders the caller to come in right away and make an official complaint. He finally agrees to do so, and mentions that he knows several SPD officers personally. No record of the motorist's first meeting with SPD personnel (aside from Frazier) was included in the information provided to Illinois Times.
The Road Ranger complaint--in which Frazier, off-duty, worked one Friday night as a security officer at a gas station and convenience store and allegedly ignored a customer who had what looked like a gun tucked into his pants--was filed almost a month after the Halloween rape incident, yet happened weeks earlier, in mid-October (the exact date is never determined). The complainant is a fellow SPD officer--Sergeant Todd Taylor.
Similarly, the complaining party on the Halloween rape incident is not the rape victim herself, nor even her father. Rather, it's another SPD officer, former assistant chief Dan Hughes, now working in another state.
After a thorough investigation by internal affairs, the harshest discipline recommended for Frazier's actual police work is a five-day suspension for her response to the Halloween disturbance call. But the recommended discipline for her lack of good manners during the internal affairs interrogation related to these incidents--conducted while Frazier was depressed and medicated--is termination for insubordination.
Stay tuned: The special treatment mentioned by the mayor must be outlined in another set of documents to be released in the future, along with the ominous "other things."
Just because he's paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get him.
Lieutenant Rickey Davis, one of the most outspoken Black Guardians, filed an internal affairs complaint of his own last week against three of SPD's top brass: Lieutenant Patrick Fogleman, Assistant Chief Mitzi Vasconcelles, and Chief John Harris. In his complaint, Davis alleges that Fogleman and Vasconcelles were spying on him with Harris's approval.
Davis, who works the midnight shift, was parked in his parents' driveway on the Eastside around 3 a.m. October 29 when he noticed a red car drive slowly past. According to his complaint, Davis saw two people inside the car looking in his direction. Davis pulled out of the driveway to follow the red car, then called dispatch to check the red car's tags. Dispatch responded that the car was a rental.
When Davis pulled alongside the car, both the driver and the passenger attempted to conceal their faces, according to Davis's complaint. The driver pulled a hat down over the side of his face, while the passenger slumped down in her seat.
At one point, the red car sped away from a light, exceeding the speed limit by about 10 miles per hour, so Davis turned on his flashing lights, pulled the red car over, and called for backup. As Davis waited for another squad car to arrive, the driver of the red car got out and walked toward him. Davis recognized the driver as Fogleman, a lieutenant in SPD's internal affairs division.
"I asked him what he was doing and why he was following me around. He didn't say anything. I accused him again of following me and I told him that it was a disgrace for him to do that and that I did not appreciate it," Davis wrote in his complaint.
Riding in the passenger seat of Fogleman's red rental car was Vasconcelles, the assistant chief in charge of internal affairs. She told Davis they were not following him but instead checking out a Crime Stoppers tip about SPD officers involved with drugs at a certain bar.
The bar was 18 blocks away from Davis's original location, and had been closed for two hours when he spotted the red car. Furthermore, Davis--the highest-ranking cop on the midnight shift--had never been informed about the tip.
According to his attorney, Courtney Cox, Davis believes SPD's internal affairs division was investigating him in an attempt to discredit him on the eve of Illinois Times' cover story about Renatta Frazier. Davis has been one of Frazier's most loyal supporters. He also filed a hate-crime charge against SPD assistant chief William Pittman in June after a particularly nasty verbal confrontation concerning SPD's use of federal antidrug grant monies.
Vasconcelles is the internal affairs supervisor shown slapping hands with Lieutenant Mark Harms on the videotape of Frazier's interrogation. She later summoned Davis to her office to show him the Crime Stoppers tip, which did indeed mention SPD officers dealing or using drugs at a certain bar--the one 18 blocks away from Davis's parents' house.
Inquiring minds have to ask what Davis was doing parked in his parents' driveway. Cox says Davis spends an hour or so parked there almost every shift, because it's a place he feels comfortable and safe. He backs down the driveway and positions his car between two houses, each with well-lighted and fenced backyards. In this spot, no one can approach his car from the rear, and he can concentrate on watching the neighborhood while he takes cell phone calls from shift sergeants and monitors beat officers on his mobile data terminal. Davis finds the MDT is more efficient than his desk computer for monitoring patrol officers, Cox says.
Cox says what makes Davis even more suspicious about this encounter with Fogleman and Vasconcelles is a tip he got from another officer, just days earlier, to "Watch your ass, something's in the works on you."
A message requesting comment sent to Fogleman, Vasconcelles, and Harris through SPD public information officer Sergeant Kevin Keen got no response.