GSO Police Dept. administrative turmoil rampant

by Jordan Green

The agonizing affair of personnel turmoil at the Greensboro Police Department following Chief David Wray’s resignation last month grinds on with small revelations about administrative practices dribbling fitfully out of the Melvin Municipal Building.

City Manager Mitchell Johnson and the nine city council members who have seen two reports detailing problems in the department have offered reassurance that the city government will ‘“rebuild any damaged community trust,’” while many observers struggle to understand exactly how their trust was violated.

After hours of presumably torturous discussion on the personnel matter of former Chief Wray in a closed-session meeting on Jan. 24, Mayor Keith Holliday handed out a written statement to a throng of reporters at about 11:30 p.m. He promised another statement from the city council the following day.

The City Council’s statement confirmed allegations that Wray’s administration was beset by bias in personnel actions, violations of policies and procedures and a climate of intimidation. Interim Chief Tim Bellamy will start a formal investigation to see whether more personnel actions are warranted, a process that could take up to two months to complete, according to the statement.

In addition to Wray, the department saw three significant departures at the end of 2005. Deputy Chief Randall Brady, head of metropolitan operations, and Capt. Matt Lojko, head of professional standards, resigned on Nov. 30. Johnson said their resignations took place immediately following their interviews with Risk Management Associates, a Raleigh consulting firm hired to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the department. Capt. Rick Ball, head of the vice and narcotics division, also left the department on Nov. 30.

A review of the public statement trail suggests problems existed under all four figures, including Brady, who was responsible for overseeing the special intelligence division.

‘“There were, in fact, irregularities in the practices of the special intelligence division, vice/narcotics and police administration,’” read a statement by the police department on Jan. 23. ‘“These irregularities involved the handling of internal investigations, and top administrators in the police department were aware of and approved them.’”

Complaints brought to the attention of Johnson in the fall of 2005 suggest a climate of classic double-standard racism in the police department that also spilled over into arbitrary treatment of white officers out of favor with administration ‘— including both men and women. The City Council indicated in its Jan. 25 statement that Bellamy’s findings largely substantiated those complaints.

Johnson outlined the following four broad categories of complaints in his Jan. 24 communiqué, ‘“Statement by City Manager Johnson for Release to the Public: Concerning the Status of Second Internal Police Investigation’”:

‘• ‘“Documents were altered by top management to support their desired outcomes (sometimes involving the forging of officers’ names);

‘• ‘“Improper pressure and intimidation were brought to bear on officers ‘— both minority and non-minority, men and women ‘—’ who expressed disagreement with the views of upper management;

‘• ‘“Minority officers were subject to more intense scrutiny of their actions and missteps than were non-minorities and that the authority of minority officers was undermined; and

‘• ‘“Internal affairs and special intelligence failed to follow longstanding procedures of reporting, investigative boundaries and documentation.’”

Little new information has surfaced about the reasons for Wray’s intense interest in Lt. James Hinson, a black officer suspended with pay in June 2005 and reinstated to the force days after Wray’s departure more than six months later.

Likewise with the so-called ‘black book,’ a photo lineup created for the purpose of allowing victims to single out alleged perpetrators. In a press conference last month Wray said the black book was created in early 2005 to handle one incident in which a prostitute alleged she was groped by an unidentified black officer. Johnson and members of the City Council have contended that Wray kept them in the dark about the black book and aspects of the investigation of Hinson. They have said they remain unclear about how exactly it was used.

The former chief continues to refuse cross-examination of his claims about Hinson.

While saying that he cannot categorically state that no Greensboro police officers are currently involved in drug dealing or money laundering, Johnson has previously told YES! Weekly that the officers investigated during Wray’s administration have been found to have no ties to drug dealers.

Federal agencies contacted by YES! Weekly have not provided a decisive answer on whether the names of any Greensboro police officers have come up in the course of federal investigations of drug trafficking, as Wray has alleged.

Ken Lucas, spokesman for the Charlotte field office of the FBI said he is not aware of any investigation.

Zachary Mann, the US Customs and Border Protection’s special agent in charge in Miami was even more vague.

‘“As a policy and rule we do not disclose any information regarding ongoing investigations whether they exist or do not exist,’” he said. ‘“That would be counterproductive.’”

A representative of the Drug Enforcement Administration contacted in Atlanta did not return repeated phone calls.

City leaders have defended their sparing disclosure of information by citing state confidentiality laws. To wit in Johnson’s statement: ‘“It is frustrating to the public to receive information on such a vital issue in bits and pieces. However, we need to observe complex and sometimes overlapping laws concerning personnel privacy and various agencies’ investigations.’”

City officials have emphasized that the problems in the police department go beyond race.

‘“I want to reiterate that this issue is not about race,’” Johnson said. ‘“And it is certainly not about rotating shifts or political ties. The primary issue here is one of integrity. The management and residents of this community need to know that all employees, including me, are accountable to the citizens and to City Council.’”

The message from the City Council has been a plea for trust.

‘“We ask the media and the residents of Greensboro to allow Chief Bellamy and his staff to complete their work before making further judgments or assumptions,’” their Jan. 25 statement read. ‘“Our officers policed themselves and identified these problems. We responded quickly and as transparently as possible given our laws. Whatever problems we eventually uncover, whether racial or managerial, will be dealt with honestly and decisively.’”

Going into the closed session meeting late in the evening of Jan. 24, Councilwoman Florence Gatten suggested in a voice laden with weariness that the depths of the scandal have not yet been fathomed by the public.

‘“The problem is that it’s not one thing, but many things,’” she said. ‘“We have a lot of problems. If you knew what we know, you would say the city manager absolutely did the right thing. I don’t know if we could sit down in an hour and write up a summary of what’s happened.’”

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