Private detective among citizens kept from filing complaints
When a confidential report commissioned by the city of Greensboro to review investigatory practices under former police Chief David Wray was recently leaked and posted on the internet, sworn officers alleged to have engaged in tawdry extracurricular activities were not the only ones whose reputations were tarnished. A private investigator who retired from the Greensboro Police Department almost two decades ago found his credibility called into question too.
As a matter of vocational habit Art League is an avid reader of documents such as the Risk Management Associates report. It might be considered an irony that the private investigator is trying to file an internal affairs complaint with the police department. League himself was the subject of a complaint in June 2005 relating to the suspicion held by the wife of a lieutenant that he was keeping her under surveillance on behalf of the department’s special intelligence unit. The corporal assigned to investigate the complaint did not portray League in a flattering light.
The Risk Management Associates report found that the corporal “wrote in part that he felt he ‘was rushed and not allowed to conduct a proper or true investigation of the incident.’ He also stated that Mr. League was not being honest with him and that he felt someone in the department, possibly [Capt. Matt] Lojko, had spoken to League before he did.” Lojko supervised internal affairs at the time and the consultants hired by the city concluded that he prematurely drew the investigation to a close so Wray could publicly announce that the complaint was unfounded.
“I’ve been testifying since 1973,” League said an Oct. 31 interview. “If I get on a stand and a lawyer asks me, ‘Have you ever been called a liar by a police officer?’ I have to say yes.”
League said he has tried to file a complaint with the police department, but an internal affairs officer refused to take his statement. The city’s Human Relations Department, which includes the complaint review committee, has been locked in a dispute with the police for at least six months over allegations that internal affairs refuses to allow citizens to file complaints.
The private investigator has maintained that he was working on an unrelated case involving a spouse suspected of keeping house outside their marriage when Beverly Hinson, the estranged wife of Lt. James Hinson, spotted him in his vehicle outside her condominium on Hilltop Road. James Hinson was the target of an extensive investigation by Wray, and City Manager Mitchell Johnson would later claim that the chief’s misrepresentations about the nature of that investigation would lead to his decision to lock Wray out of his office. The chief soon resigned.
Beverly Hinson called 911 when she spotted a suspicious vehicle outside of her house on May 7, 2005. League said he had been working on his case two blocks away, but when he thought he might have been spotted, he moved his vehicle to the front of an empty condominium next to the one in which Beverly Hinson lived. Two police officers approached League.
“The lady in this other house complained about you,” League remembers one of them telling him.
“Tell her what I’m doing and ask her if she minds me sitting here,” League said he told them. “By the way, let me know if she’s good looking.”
He recalls: “We got to kidding around with this rookie. Police out there talk. They stayed there and talked to me for fifteen minutes. Then they left. Beverly Hinson, she comes out and starts messing with her car. I spoke; she spoke. She continued messing with her car and that was it. She went back inside.”
The Risk Management Associates report concurred that Beverly Hinson was satisfied at the time by League’s explanation of his purpose. She later became suspicious when she learned her husband was being tracked by Randy Gerringer, a retired Greensboro police officer who was hired back to work with special intelligence and who has also been employed and licensed under League’s company, AAL Investigations. Beverly Hinson filed a complaint with the police department on June 13.
Afterwards the corporal assigned to the case called and asked him if he was parked in front of Hinson’s house on May 7, League said.
“I told him I was working another case out there,” League said. “In the meantime I’d sent a report to the client and the client gave a copy to the attorney.”
League said he received permission from his client to show his intelligence report from May 7 to the corporal investigating Hinson’s complaint, adding that the report was sent out before she brought her grievance to the police. The corporal never took up his offer to share the report, League said.
More than a year later, after learning that the corporal assigned to investigate Hinson’s complaint alleged that he “was not being honest,” League said he went to the police department to find out if it was true. A captain declined to return his calls and then told him she could not speak to him, he said.
League said he met with an internal affairs officer named Detective DE Stewart Jr. around Oct. 24, and asked if the corporal really stated that he appeared to be dishonest.
“Stewart tried to talk me out of it,” League said. “I told him he wasn’t going to talk me out of it. I asked him, would he be upset if anybody said that about him. He said, ‘Yes.’ We talked for a few minutes and he more or less walked me out of the office.”
The Human Relations Commission’s complaint review committee has been concerned about the police department’s handling of citizen complaints for some time. Chairman Wayne Abraham told YES! Weekly in April that the committee met with interim Chief Tim Bellamy and at the time he thought the problem of failing to log complaints had been corrected. Abraham acknowledged on Sunday that the problem was not resolved.
Police spokeswoman Lt. Jane Allen said Monday that she had no information on League’s attempt to file a complaint. According to standard operating procedure, League’s complaint should have been accepted whether or not the internal affairs officers found it to have merit. The Greensboro Police Department manual states that all allegations of employee misconduct shall be investigated, whether they are received from citizens or department employees.
“That’s been a matter of contention between us and the police,” Human Relations Director John Shaw said on Nov. 3. “Anybody who wants to file a complaint should be able to file a complaint.”
Shaw noted that many people who try to file complaints with the police have far less sophistication than League, a former police officer with two decades of experience as a private investigator. Other citizens might also lack League’s dogged persistence.
“Whether they feel the complaint has merit or not, they should accept the complaint and look into it rather than tell them they don’t see any merit,” Shaw said. “Many citizens really have a complaint; they just don’t know how to state it. In our business we try to help make sure that we really get to the real issue. They just know something happened to them and they don’t think it’s right.”
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