When the Springfield Police Department drove Renatta Frazier off the force, it didn't let the truth get in the way.
Sergeant Kevin Keen is the public information officer for the Springfield Police Department. Fielding calls from the media is his job.
I ring his number and tell him I'm working on a story about Renatta Frazier, the former police officer who left the department under a cloud of controversy. As all of Springfield undoubtedly knows, she was accused of mishandling a call last Halloween when she was dispatched to an apartment where another officer's daughter was allegedly raped.
I start off by asking Keen about SPD's hiring policies--Frazier was a rookie cop--and Keen refers me to the city's human resources department. I ask about Frazier's fellow recruits, and Keen gives me the number for the police academy. I want to know more about SPD's sick leave policy--Frazier took a lot of sick days--and Keen promises to fax me a copy.
I move on to questions about the incident itself: How can I get tapes of the 911 calls? How many other officers also came to the apartment? How can I get a copy of the police report? And isn't Lieutenant David Dodson in charge of the investigation?
Keen answers this last question with "Well, since she resigned . . . " and spends the next few minutes waxing on about whether or not the SPD's investigation of Frazier is still open because, after all, she eventually quit her job. But the investigation was ongoing at the time she resigned, Keen says, so maybe . . .
I interrupt to remind him that I'd asked about Lieutenant David Dodson, who works in the SPD's sex-crimes division.
"Oh, you mean the rape investigation!" Keen says.
Yes, I wasn't asking about the investigation into Renatta Frazier's fitness as a police officer--I was asking about the crime that led to that investigation. Apparently Keen had gotten used to the idea that the focus should be on Frazier--the cop who failed to get out of her car--instead of on the actual assault. I couldn't help but wonder about the SPD's priority: Was it solving the crime? Or did the SPD simply use this tragedy as an excuse to drive an unpopular officer off the force?
Renatta Frazier has been in the newspaper 20 times over the past couple of years. The first time was in August 2000, when she was one of 25 new recruits headed for the Springfield Police Academy. The State Journal-Register headline, "NAACP pleased with minority cop hires," trumpeted the racial diversity of the graduating class that included three African-Americans and one Hispanic. SPD's poor record on minority hiring had already resulted in a discrimination lawsuit against the city.
The other 19 articles that mention Frazier all relate to the now-infamous case that resulted in her resignation. She was consistently described as the target of an SPD internal-affairs investigation "into whether more aggressive police work on her part could have prevented the rape of another police officer's daughter."
That story went like this:
At 1:56 a.m. last Halloween, a young woman called police to report several men pounding on her apartment door. At least one patrol unit arrived, but no one got out of a squad car. At about 7 a.m. the woman called police again. This time, officers found the apartment door ajar. Inside, the young woman was being consoled by two friends. She told officers that she'd been raped hours earlier by the men pounding on her door.
This salacious tale aroused considerable outrage. But the very nature of the crime insulated the case from close scrutiny. The details of sexual assault cases are understandably kept private to protect the identity of the victim. City personnel matters--especially internal affairs investigations--are also kept confidential. No one at SPD could say much about either the rape or the internal-affairs investigation.
In this closed-circuit scenario, devoid of fresh information, the same story was drummed repeatedly: "Renatta Frazier . . . is the subject of an internal affairs investigation . . . into whether more aggressive police work on her part could have prevented the rape of another police officer's daughter."
That account has one flaw. According to the Springfield Police Department's own report, the rape occurred before the victim called the police. Frazier couldn't have done anything to prevent the crime from occurring.
The City of Springfield denied Illinois Times' request for a copy of the incident report under the Freedom of Information Act. But SPD officer Keen agreed to read relevant parts of the report, paraphrased, over the phone:
"The victim told police that at approximately 2 a.m. she was awakened to the sound of someone pounding on her door. She said she opened the door and saw a man outside who was asking to use the telephone. She knew the guy, so she reluctantly let him in. . . . When he came inside, he was accompanied by a second black man. After they entered, both men sexually assaulted the woman. . . .
"After the suspects left . . . she called police and told police there were several males at her apartment she wanted removed. Officers responded to that call at approximately 1:56 a.m. . . . and cleared with disposition indicating they had checked the area and seen nothing out of the ordinary."
When asked to clarify the sequence of events, Keen says, "After the suspects left, she called police and told them there were several black males at the apartment that she wanted removed. So they were already gone when she called."
It may seem implausible that, in her calls to police, the woman asked to have men "removed" and never mentioned that she had been raped. But rape counselors say that women who have been sexually assaulted--especially when the attacker is someone they know--often have an initial reaction of "confusion about how to feel." It's possible that the woman's first priority was to make certain the attackers were no longer nearby. One man now charged with the crime did indeed reside in the same area.
Letters Illinois Times sent to the rape victim and her father seeking further information have gone unanswered. However, three other sources familiar with the investigation confirm Keen's recital of events: The rape happened before police were called, and certainly before Frazier arrived on the scene. By the time she was dispatched, the attackers were gone.
Why, then, would the department launch an inquiry into "whether more aggressive police work on her part could have prevented the rape of another police officer's daughter"?
Police chief John Harris, through Keen, offered no explanation. "He said there's no point in commenting further; there's nothing he could offer that would add anything additional to what's already been said," Keen told Illinois Times. Keen says the SPD made no effort to correct the misleading version of events portrayed in the media, because the department didn't want to "create more tension to a controversial situation than is necessary."
Despite numerous invitations to discuss the former officer on or off the record, virtually no one at the SPD was willing to talk about Frazier. When Illinois Times asked about the former officer, SPD employees repeatedly said it was unlikely anyone would talk about the case. "The chief's got this locked down pretty tight," one said.
The only wee bit of info that seeped out through the cracks was this: At SPD headquarters, hostility toward Renatta Frazier was about as widespread as linoleum.
It's easy to see why Frazier had a hard time blending in at the Springfield Police Department. For starters, she was one of just a dozen black officers, and only the third black female to ever join the force. Already 34 when she entered police academy, she was a good 10 to 12 years older than most of her fellow rookies. And Frazier never made any real effort to fit in.
"I never tried to play the game," she says. "I have a good work ethic, I have very high standards, I expect a lot from myself. I was always very receptive to any training or any positive advice or whatever. But I never tried to be one of the boys."
When another black officer advised Frazier to keep a low profile, she dismissed the suggestion.
"Somebody told me, 'Just keep your nose clean, try to be invisible, and just do your job, and maybe after a year they'll ease up on you.' But I didn't believe that, and I didn't carry myself like that," Frazier says. "I knew these people did not like me, for whatever reason. I honestly believe it didn't matter what I did--they were going to find a reason to mess with me."
In person, Frazier comes across as frank, funny, and tenderhearted. That's if you're inclined to like her. If you're looking for a reason to dislike her, you would say she's abrasive, irreverent, and lacking in military bearing. But whether you're inclined to like her or not, you would recognize that she has a habit of saying exactly what she means rather than what she's expected to say.
She spent her life preparing to be a police officer. "I was eight or nine when I realized I was not going to be a statistic," Frazier says. "I knew I had a destiny and a purpose. I knew I would be a success."
The odds were not exactly stacked in her favor. Growing up on the west side of Chicago, Frazier was the daughter of a heroin addict mother and a Black Panther father. She was four when she lost both parents on Christmas Eve. That night, her mother died of hepatitis. Her father, distraught over the death of his young wife, went to the home of the couple who supplied her heroin and shot them both. Believing, erroneously, that he had killed the couple, he fled the country and spent the next six years in Europe. In 1976, he was extradited from Amsterdam; he has been in Illinois prisons ever since, convicted of burglary, battery, attempted murder, and rape. Frazier, who still visits her father regularly, says he freely acknowledges that he tried to kill the couple. He has never confirmed or denied the rape charge.
Frazier was raised by her great-grandparents in what she describes as a "strict Pentecostal household." Her maternal grandmother recognized a certain spark in Frazier, and encouraged her to prepare herself for success. "All my life, I have kept a clean life," Frazier says. "I never got into drugs or alcohol or the club scene. I never had a baby out of wedlock. I haven't had any trouble in my life."
She married at 19, separated four years later, and became a single mom with three children. She took courses at the City Colleges of Chicago, and, around 1992, applied to the Chicago Police Department. Frazier says she cleared the background check, physical agility tests, and psychological evaluation, and heard through the grapevine that she was about to be called to attend police academy. But when she got a letter of acceptance to Sangamon State University, she elected to finish her college degree instead. She moved to Springfield in 1993 and graduated in '95, with a degree in health services administration.
Frazier was happy working various jobs in social services--with the Urban League, with the county's juvenile probation department, and with the Central Illinois Food Bank--until she realized she was approaching the age limit for police work. If she was ever going to carry out her childhood plan, she had to hurry up and apply.
But her husband, B.J., whom she had married in 1993, told her not to apply to the SPD. "He had lived in Springfield all his life, and he knew the racism and the politics," Frazier says. About a week before the deadline, though, B.J. told his wife, "Who the hell am I to keep you from your dream?" So Renatta Frazier applied to become a Springfield Police officer.
Frazier entered the police academy with several impediments. There were the obvious differences--gender, race, age, and the fact that she was, by her own admission, "definitely overweight." It took her two tries to pass the timed running test, and the class sometimes had to do extra push-ups when she failed to perform hers correctly. Some disdained her as an "affirmative-action hire." She overheard one classmate refer to her as "the poster child for the NAACP."
Though she had what she describes as "good working relationships" with a few recruits, she had too little in common with most of them to become true friends.
"They were 21. I was 34. When they went home on the weekends, they would drink and screw around. When I went home on the weekends, I had a husband and children; I did laundry and dishes and grocery shopping," Frazier says. "Their world was just quite a bit different from mine. I mean, a lot of these kids still lived with their parents! Some kids' parents were giving them flak because they wanted to buy new cars. 'Oh, my dad won't let me buy a car.' I'm thinking to myself, 'You're the poh-lice! You can do what the hell you wanna do! If you want a car, go buy a car!' "
In addition to these transparent differences, she was also handicapped by her utter unfamiliarity with military culture, and her natural distaste for it. The first three months of SPD training are conducted at the Illinois State Police academy, on the outskirts of Springfield. This institution emphasizes military traditions--saluting, standing at attention, saying "Yes, sir!" and "Yes, m'am!" It's the kind of environment where the phrase "Don't sweat the small stuff" would be considered blasphemous.
In written evaluations, Frazier was criticized for, among other things, failure to wear her hat or exchange the greeting of the day with a superior officer. She found such criticisms tiresome and petty.
"I thought the whole thing was stupid, to be honest," she says. "The whole psychology, the whole environment, you know? That's probably another problem that I had: I was just too old to be brainwashed. I've seen too much, done too much, and been too many places."
Between her physical weaknesses and her attitude problem, Frazier wasn't making a great impression at the academy. When instructors asked the recruits to rank their classmates in order, most listed Frazier as one of the bottom five in the class. Frazier even ranked herself last.
"I knew I had attitude issues about the system, because from my perspective, being an older person, I knew it was stupid," Frazier says. "A lot of the stuff they do is unnecessary--the yelling, putting down, belittling. To me, it's immature and unprofessional.
"But I was irritated with myself for being irritated about it, for not just blowing it off."
Within the first month of the academy, Frazier realized she needed advice and support. She remembered a speaker at one of the first classes mentioned that recruits could be appointed a mentor. So Frazier asked the SPD to send someone to advise her. It sent Lieutenant Lea Joy, the first African-American woman the department ever hired.
A 19-year veteran of the SPD, Joy is a taller, older, and wiser version of Renatta Frazier. Like Frazier, Joy has a sharp sense of humor, a rigorous sense of personal responsibility, and a compulsion to speak her mind. When she was assigned to mentor Frazier, Joy was suspicious; she had never been asked to mentor anyone before. "I told them right away: Don't expect me to be any different with her than I am with anybody else."
She went to the academy and met with trainers who told her about Frazier's attitude problem. Then she met with Frazier.
"She didn't have a bad attitude," Joy says. "I think that--not knowing what she was getting into and not ever being in the military--she was really kicked on her ass. She didn't act properly chastised when she was chastised. That's the kind of attitude that they called negative. I had the same problem when I was going through academy."
Joy gave Frazier a supplemental exercise program to encourage weight loss and began checking in with the academy advisors every day. Soon Joy noticed problems in the translation between what happened at the academy and what was reported back to the SPD.
"I would go to the academy and, a lot of times, the advisors would tell me one thing, and then I'd get back to the station and they had something completely different written up," she says. For example, academy personnel told the SPD Frazier couldn't pass the marksmanship test. Yet once she finished the state police portion of the academy and moved on to the training administered by the Springfield Police Department, she passed the test the first day.
Joy ultimately concluded that Frazier was "being treated somewhat differently" by the staff of the Illinois State Police academy. She wanted to file a formal complaint against the master sergeant in charge. She had a meeting with her superiors and told them, "He needs to be written up, because I don't think the things coming back about Frazier are true. I think he's discriminating against her, and I don't think he should be in that position."
Her superiors strongly suggested she write her allegations not as a formal complaint but as an inter-departmental memo to Chief John Harris, so that it would have less of a negative impact on the sergeant's professional future.
One Friday afternoon, this sergeant called Frazier into his office. He told her she wasn't cut out for law enforcement and suggested she go home for the weekend and not come back. It was a speech he had made many times to many recruits, Joy says, and most simply took his suggestion as an order. But not Frazier.
"She told him, 'Well, that's your opinion and you're entitled to it. I'll see you Monday!' And I think that generally just pissed him off," Joy says.
But Frazier believes a different incident may have doomed her career.
She says it began one afternoon as the officers-in-training were being transported to the boat docks for an exercise. The recruits in one van started "joking" about Frazier's slow jogging pace, and someone suggested the way to make her run faster would be to chain her to a truck and drag her. Apparently intended as harmless banter, the quip nevertheless offended at least one future peace officer, who reported it to Frazier. Frazier told the class advisor, who recognized the reference to the infamous Jasper, Texas, case, in which a black man was dragged to death by two men who chained him to their pickup truck.
"I thought what the hell psychological exam did they pass? Because if you've got that kind of mindset for a person that wears the same kind of uniform as you wear, then a regular civilian on the street won't have a damn chance with you!
"And besides," Frazier adds, "what the hell makes 'em think they're tough enough to get me chained up anyway?"
As a result of the academy staff's investigation of this incident, six white male recruits were terminated and sent home. The official reason for their dismissal was kept secret, though the master sergeant told the class the men had been terminated because they lied.
That explanation only angered Frazier. "So you're not concerned about the mindset of these individuals? You're just concerned about whether they admitted it or not," she fumes. "I'm thinking: Screw y'all. Y'all just trying not to get sued."
Her attitude toward the fired recruits who found humor in racism is more motherly. "They're 21-year-old kids who don't know any better," she says. "They're ignorant. They've just been shielded from diversity. I did not hold anything personally against those guys."
And why should she? They were all sent packing. The Springfield Police Department, on the other hand, had lost some promising officers, all because Frazier was offended by a little joke--if you chose to see it that way. It would get messy, but in the end the SPD would settle its score against Frazier almost the very same way.
A lot of thirtysomethings look back and laugh at the foolishness of their childhood dreams. But Frazier, from her vantage point as a newly sworn police officer, felt she had been a pretty smart kid. Police work, once she got to it, was her calling.
Frazier loved her job. She reveled in wearing the uniform. She enjoyed driving the squad car. She even relished answering the mundane, inglorious calls.
"I loved going to old ladies' houses when they needed somebody to check because they heard a noise in the basement. I loved going to family's houses to break up the kids' fights when they were squabbling over Pokemon cards," she says.
The turmoil of the academy was a fading memory. Her infamous slow jog was holding up well enough on the streets. "I caught every person I set out to catch," she says.
She had a sort of ritual she went through before every shift. She would pray to the Holy Spirit for angels to cover her and her fellow officers, and for no fatalities to occur on her watch. Next she would go to the squad meeting, then out to her police cruiser. But on her way to the parking lot, she would duck into the ladies bathroom and have a good cry.
It wasn't the fear of hitting the streets. It was the lonely feeling she got during squad meetings when no one would sit near her or include her in conversations.
For most of her brief tenure on the SPD, Frazier was the only African-American officer on the 2:30 to 11:30 p.m. shift. When asked if any white officers were friendly to her, Frazier names only three or four. She says many officers and supervisors simply pretended she wasn't there.
At most jobs, if your colleagues don't like you, it means you eat lunch alone and probably aren't on the fast track to promotion. But in police work, if your colleagues don't like you, the repercussions can range from the materialistic (you won't get the most lucrative off-duty jobs) to matters of life and death (you might not get back-up when you need it). Mostly, it means you get harsher discipline.
Frazier's mentor, Lieutenant Lea Joy, says senior officers have a great deal of latitude in dealing with rookies and can choose to handle a corrective action in a casual just-between-us chat or in a written reprimand that will go in the rookie's file and forever affect his or her chances of advancement.
"There's not too much we can't get in trouble for, because there's so many rules and regulations," Joy says. "But a lot of times people would call you in and say now don't do this again, and help a young officer out.
"Frazier didn't have that. So every little thing was written up on her. And the more paperwork you get, the more chance there is to use that where you could get fired."
Frazier had been a full-fledged patrol officer just about three months when she got her first piece of "paperwork." She was taking her son to daycare, off-duty and wearing street clothes, when she noticed a car in the lane beside her erratically stopping and starting. At a stop light, she got out of her van and approached the motorist's window to ask if he was having car trouble, telling him that she was a police officer and could call for help. But the man--who said he was purposely braking in order to slow traffic through his subdivision--refused her help and called the SPD to complain that she had screamed at him.
This incident became the subject of Frazier's first internal affairs investigation. She was formally questioned August 21, 2001, but nothing seemed to come of the case.
Soon after this episode, Frazier began to notice what she now knows were the earliest signs of depression. She found herself becoming irritable and angry, and sleeping the day away. Hoping to force herself to be active and cheerful, she started substitute teaching kindergarten and first grade at two Springfield schools. A month later, she received a written reprimand for working an off-duty job without proper authorization, as well as a written reprimand and loss of pay for over-use of sick time.
As the paperwork piled up in her personnel file, Frazier's depression worsened. She started experiencing stress-related medical problems and eating either too much or nothing at all. Her nightly crying spells now extended to her drive home, and sometimes she would cry for hours after she got home.
On the night of October 30, at the end of her regular shift, she learned she was needed to work the midnight shift too. It would be her last as a Springfield police officer.
When the dispatcher announced the call--that several black males were knocking on the door of a woman's apartment--three squads were sent, including Frazier. The apartment, located in a warren of short, dead-end streets leading to a labyrinth of small complexes, would be difficult for most people to find. But Frazier knew exactly where it was; she had a relative who had previously lived in that very unit.
Though it was not her beat, Frazier was the first to arrive at the address. She aimed her spotlight onto the apartment door, which was closed, as well as the windows, the bushes below, and the stairs going up to the apartment. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, Frazier called dispatch and cancelled the other two cars that were coming. Then she asked dispatch to call the woman. Dispatch responded that the complainant's phone was being answered by voice mail. Within a few minutes, Frazier heard another call on the same street--someone was spraying a fire extinguisher in a hallway--and left to handle that fracas.
Should Frazier have taken time to get out of her vehicle, go up to the door, and knock? Perhaps so. But she says her field-training officers taught her to play it by ear.
"We'd roll up on the scene, and if we didn't get something saying complainant wants to meet police, then it would depend on what's going on," Frazier says. "We might drive around to the back, shine the light around, but you don't necessarily get out of the car. It's not so much what they tell you; you just learn by watching and observing. And you very quickly learn that most of them, on a suspicious person call, they don't get out of the car."
Getting out of the car would have done nothing to prevent the rape inside that apartment. It had occurred sometime before the young woman had called the police. But within a day's time, Frazier heard, unofficially, that she was being investigated for failing to prevent the rape of a colleague's daughter.
Frazier's depression deepened. She went on medical leave. Three weeks later, the SPD sent two sergeants to collect not only her duty weapon (standard practice with officers suffering from depression) but also her badge, ID, radio, and ammunition, with no explanation.
Frazier's case was instantly taken up by the NAACP and the Black Guardians, an organization of African-American officers. Aldermen Frank McNeil and Roderick Nunn tried to arrange a meeting with the mayor and Springfield police chief John Harris to resolve the matter. Black Guardians invited Jesse Jackson to town to express to Mayor Karen Hasara their concerns about general race discrimination in the SPD.
While Jackson's impending visit made headlines, Frazier suffered another blow. On the eve of Jackson's visit, Frazier and her family were evicted from their $650 per month apartment in the Clock Tower neighborhood.
With Frazier on unpaid leave, the family had fallen behind on bills, and landlord John Vaughn had secured an eviction order against them in March. The Fraziers have receipts proving that they eventually paid the March rent, but somehow the order hadn't been cancelled. On April 29, Sangamon County deputies showed up to remove the couple and their six kids from their apartment.
Vaughn, who owns hundreds of apartments and estimates that he has seen about 200 evictions over 10 years, says he has never seen an eviction like this one. "I came on the scene at like 10:30 or 11 in the morning, and when I showed up there were about 20 police officers there," he says. "County and city officers, several of the higher ranking officers."
Vaughn says the county had four or five officers present. There were six or seven of the SPD's "top brass" (including two assistant chiefs), and three or four Black Guardians who, Vaughn says, "could turn this into some kind of a race riot or something." Actually, the Black Guardians were trying to pay the Fraziers' rent, in cash. "But the police told me that once we start an eviction we have to finish it," Vaughn says.
Frazier was enraged by the unexpected eviction--the notice, dated seven weeks earlier, was not signed--and the sight of her family's belongings being dumped on the curb. She cussed at Vaughn and his property manager until the Black Guardians hustled her away.
The next day, Jesse Jackson got Chief Harris and Mayor Karen Hasara to publicly pledge that by the year 2005 black officers will make up 15 percent of the police and fire forces, matching the general population. Since that day, two black SPD officers have resigned or retired, leaving just 10 on a force of 273, or just under 4 percent.
By July, all efforts at negotiation had failed, and Chief John Harris ordered Frazier to submit to three internal affairs interviews.
One of these interviews would focus on the encounter with the erratic motorist, which had already been investigated months earlier. Lieutenant Lea Joy was assigned to re-open the judicial inquiry. But after reading the file, Joy refused, saying that such an investigation would be unfair. The next day, Harris transferred Joy out of internal affairs.
The other two interviews would focus on another off-duty enounter, this time at a Road Ranger station, and on the Halloween rape case. Frazier was still on unpaid family medical leave, and still suffering from depression.
Frazier's attorney, Courtney Cox, gave the department a letter with a note from his client's doctor stating that Frazier's presence at the interviews was against the advice of her physician, and that her depression and her medication "may affect her ability to completely understand your questions and to respond completely, accurately, and appropriately." But Harris chose not to rescind his order.
The tape of these three July 10 interviews shows a groggy, disoriented Frazier, head in hands, sitting at a small table across from Assistant Chief Mitzi Vasconcelles, head of internal affairs. To Frazier's left is Lieutenant Mark Harms, who took Joy's place in the investigation; to Frazier's right is Cox.
The rules for internal affairs interviews aren't like the rules for court. No one is allowed to make an objection. Investigators can ask the same question again and again, even if it has already been answered. They can recast the subject's answer to make it sound worse. And they can wear guns on their hips the whole time.
Cox, accustomed to the relative civility of the courtroom, characterizes the interviews as "something I wouldn't do to a dog."
Frazier appears to have trouble staying awake, focusing her eyes on documents, and remembering events that happened months earlier, no matter how hard she tries.
"They weren't just asking her questions, they were out to demolish her," Cox says. "What you can't see on the tape is during the breaks I kept saying, guys, why are you doing this?"
The first interview is the "re-investigation" of Frazier's August 2001 off-duty encounter with the erratic motorist. Frazier had been worried enough about the motorist that she called dispatch to report the incident just after it happened. This interview appears to be an effort to catch a "Rule 27" violation--an instance of an officer lying--which can be grounds for termination. Harms isolates two inconsistencies. In the phone call, Frazier says she was transporting two children, and she says she showed the motorist her badge. In a tape of the initial interview after that incident, Frazier says she was carrying only one child in the van and that she didn't show her badge.
The second interview involves a complaint apparently filed only after the publicity surrounding the Halloween rape. According to the allegation, Frazier was working off-duty, providing security at a Road Ranger gas station on October 13, 2001, when she saw a black male get out of his vehicle, remove a gun from the front of his pants, and put it back into the vehicle. The allegations against Frazier were "neglect of duty" and "unbecoming conduct and associations." But in the internal affairs interview, she can't remember working at Road Ranger and swears that, "If I seen anybody with a handgun while I was working, they'd be in a lot of trouble."
The third interview concerns the rape that occurred last Halloween, and Frazier's response to the complainant's call. Harms' questions to Frazier are based on a transcript of the dispatch tape: "Have four black males at the door knocking. The subject inside is very scared. Unknown what they want." Several times, Harms asks Frazier: "Since they said she was very scared and it gave a specific address . . . would that not require you to talk to the complainant?"
Throughout the interview, Frazier makes no apologies for not getting out of her car that night. Harms implies that behind the closed apartment door the four black males were restraining the woman who had called for police.
Harms: "How do you know she wasn't being prevented from answering the phone?"
Frazier: "I don't know that."
Harms: "Exactly. That's my point."
Frazier: "How does anybody know it when they don't get out of the car? I do what you people trained me to do. You never trained me to get out of the car on a suspicious person call."
Vasconcelles: "Officer Frazier, you were saying that you never received any training on how to handle a suspicious person?"
At this point, Frazier sighs and asks for a break. As she leaves the room with her attorney, Harms holds out his hand to Vasconcelles, and they slap each other a sort of soft high-five. They finally got Renatta Frazier.
They might have ended their interview with the triumphant feeling that inspired the high-five. But no, they had to keep pressing Frazier to say again and again that she didn't get out of her squad car, she did not talk to the complainant, she did not drive around to the back of the building.
Vasconcelles hammers at this third point until finally Frazier tells her, "Maybe you should have took a trip over there before you ask me these questions. You can't drive around it."
Vasconcelles responds by warning Frazier that she's subject to a charge of insubordination. But Frazier is right. The building backs up to a fence, adjacent to a lake. You can't drive around the building.
Frazier can't or won't explain what finally made her decide to resign from the SPD. She only says she realized she couldn't move on with her life while on indefinite unpaid leave. So as much as she cherished her childhood dream job, she and her family finally decided to leave Springfield.
The city received Frazier's letter of resignation September 4. Though the victim knew at least one of her assailants, no one was arrested until September 10--more than 10 months after the rape but less than a week after Frazier resigned.
That delay frustrated SPD detective Rodney Yoswig, who was assigned to the rape investigation. He delivered the case file to the state's attorney's office in mid-June but didn't receive a warrant until three months later.
Frazier is sorry her situation inadvertently prolonged the pain of the woman who was raped last Halloween. "To me, it seemed like SPD's whole goal was to make me look bad instead of helping her," she says. "I felt she probably needs to start a healing process, and these guys definitely weren't making it better. They're trying to destroy someone's character, instead of making sure this female is vindicated and that some kind of closure is brought to her."
As for Frazier herself, she's now working with teens in a setting that is almost entirely white. Yet she has made friends already and feels welcome in the staff lounge.
"I know how to work with all different kinds of people," she says. "I've seen it all, from the guttermost junkies to the richest people on top of the hill. I have not been anywhere that I have not been accepted except Springfield PD. That is why I know the problem is them, not me."