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Police behaving badly

by Amy Kingsley

In August 2006, in the first of a series of articles published in the Rhinoceros Times, ousted police chief David Wray compared himself to Will Kane, the über-ethical lawman Gary Cooper played in High Noon.

But a transcript released Feb. 20 by the Greensboro City Council showed police officers engaging in shenanigans more likely to be seen on Comedy Central’s cop spoof “Reno 911!”

In one case former Deputy Chief Randall Brady conspired with a detective to get a troublesome neighbor out of Wray’s hair. Brady repeatedly calls the neighbor a “nut” and tells Detective Scott Sanders to start a file on her.

“You know what kind of file I’m looking for,” Brady said. “I mean, where we can go up there and lay it down and say here’s the history of this woman, here’s the things she’s done, and before it’s over with, you and I are going to figure out some way to get her kicked out of that freaking place.”

The city council entered a closed session at the beginning of the meeting that lasted for a little more than an hour. They had decided to release the tapes the week before but were working out some of the last-minute legal details according to council members Sandy Carmany and Michael Barber. The State Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the Greensboro Police Department, approved the release of the recordings the week before.

“What is especially bothersome to me about this conversation is that two police officers seem to be comfortable discussing this directive to, in essence, potentially force someone to move from her home,” Johnson said, “even if it means creating evidence.”

The meeting was the first in which Johnson and the council presented any of their evidence supporting the decision to lock Wray out of his office in early 2006. Wray resigned a few days later; Brady retired in the fall of 2005 after a series of interviews with Risk Management Associates, a consulting firm from Raleigh.

“Last night was a relief in that we were able to talk a little bit about the case and to show that the manager’s actions were not arbitrary or vindictive,” Carmany said. “In another way, it was sobering and saddening to admit that this kind of thing was going on in our police force.”

The Rhinoceros Times series “Cops in Black and White,” written by Jerry Bledsoe, has been critical of Johnson’s handling of the investigation.

Bledsoe said none of the members of the city council called him with concerns about his reporting. He said he is working on a narrative piece and will not be addressing material released by the council until he gets there in his reporting, which hasn’t happened yet.

“I’m telling the story from the viewpoint of David Wray,” he told YES! Weekly. “That’s not all I’m doing, I’m digging into all aspects, but he is the central figure.”

Johnson hired Risk Management Associates after Lt. James Hinson found a tracker on his patrol car, raising concerns that he was being unfairly targeted. The consultants discovered that the special investigations division was working outside the chain of command to investigate some African-American officers, including Hinson.

Two of the records released by the council were transcripts of RMA investigators interviews with Brady. In one conducted Nov. 16, 2005, the interviewer asks incredulously if Brady had directed Detective Scott Sanders in 2003 to investigate incidents at Hinson’s 1997 bachelor party.

“So how long did [Sanders] investigate this party until he determined that there was insufficient information to pursue criminally and that was concurred on by the chief and you?” the investigator asked. “How long did he investigate that?”

“That should have concluded spring or summer of 2004,” Brady responded.

“And he started in – sometime in 2002?” the investigator asked.

“Yes,” Brady said.

“So eighteen months to two years trying to find out if there was a bachelor party and a couple of strippers there?” the investigator concluded.

The city withheld Brady’s supplemental police benefits because of the ongoing investigation. Judge Carlton Tilley Jr. ordered the city to pay Brady on Feb. 7 after the former officer filed a lawsuit.

Tilley ruled that because Brady had served 30 years as an officer, and because the city did not have a policy about employees who retire under investigation, the former deputy chief was entitled to his benefits. Mayor Keith Holliday directed City Attorney Linda Miles to pursue the Brady case at the end of the Tuesday night meeting. Johnson said the city would try to reopen the case in light of new evidence.

Barber said he did not support the city’s decision to take further legal action in the case but declined to elaborate on his disagreement with fellow council members. Johnson said the city never got to fully present its case to Judge Tilley.

“We wanted to present this information to the judge to show that there was some sort of potential termination,” Johnson said, “and that it wasn’t just some sort of idle gossip.”

Seth Cohen, the lawyer representing Brady, did not return calls seeking comment.

The process the city and consultants used to get information from officers was called the Garrity Rule, which investigators can use to gather information that cannot be used in a criminal case. Johnson said the Garrity rule restricted what he could say to officers with the State Bureau of Investigation and to the media. Investigators approved the release of materials gathered under Garrity the day Johnson made his presentation.

“Everybody loves to be critical about how we don’t release enough information,” he said. “It’s real easy for somebody with no liability to release information. But I’ve got a lot of liability.”

Brady moved several times within the Greensboro Police Department but was always in charge of special intelligence officers who kept tabs on their colleagues, according to the RMA report. Wray and Brady were in the same recruiting class and the chief included his deputy in a group of close advisors, according to the transcript.

Carmany said the State Bureau of Investigation released the information to the city to use in the Brady lawsuit. The council released it to reassure citizens the city was being as open as possible about the case. She and Barber said the Rhinoceros Times articles played no part in their decision to release the transcripts, but Carmany said she had been frustrated by her inability to correct Bledsoe’s reporting.

“The release of information would have happened whether or not Jerry Bledsoe ever wrote a word,” Carmany said. “But it’s been hard because we have not been able to make corrections to any of his many factual errors. So I’m sure it was in the back of my mind somewhere.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

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