Purpose of ‘black book’ remains unclear, controversial
An incident of officer misconduct that likely never occurred.
A photographic lineup possibly created for legitimate purposes.
A crest of fear by black officers that their photographs were indiscriminately shown to prostitutes and other criminal informants with the implied suggestion that leniency might be exchanged for damning information.
Allegations of evasion by the police chief and his deputy when the city manager asked about the document.
Such is the winding road traveled by the so-called “black book,” a black, three-ring binder containing 19 separate photographic lineups and other materials that is now being held by the State Bureau of Investigation as evidence in the pending trial of at least one of two indicted members of the Greensboro Police Department’s disbanded special intelligence unit.
One of the indicted police officers, Detective Scott Sanders, began gathering pictures of black officers “to be used in a lineup book to embarrass, frame and even wrongfully charge” them, alleges a civil complaint filed last year by Officer Julius Fulmore against the city. Fulmore, a black officer who was assigned to the special intelligence unit before being transferred to patrol, was the target of an extensive internal investigation by Sanders.
Fulmore alleges that former Chief David Wray knew of the photographic lineup’s existence, and encouraged former Deputy Chief Randall Brady and subordinates to use and keep it concealed.
Wray and his supporters have maintained that the so-called “black book” is a fiction. In a Feb. 8 letter to Mayor Yvonne Johnson and members of the city council, lawyer Kenneth Keller wrote, “Based on information now available to me, I believe there never was a ‘black book.'”
Keller is one of two lawyers retained by Wray.
City Manager Mitchell Johnson has treaded lightly around the topic of how the photographic lineup might have been used, wary of the social minefield created when whites are accused of racism in a Southern city where blacks remain a minority.
The city manager’s view of the so-called “black book” has long been that it might have had a legitimate purpose and use. “The often discussed ‘black book’ – which contains pictures of African-American officers, prepared and used in response to victim complaints – may have been a legitimate investigative tool and the chief described the possible existence of this sort of document to the city manager in theory stating that he was unaware of any actual document that fit the description provided to the media by black police officers,” Johnson wrote in a memo to city council following Wray’s resignation. “However, when the book become known to the public, Chief Wray instructed a subordinate to hide and secure the book and did not inform his superior of its true existence and actual purpose. This act, and failure to act, caused much inaccurate information and confusion within the manager’s office and among the residents of Greensboro.”
Whether or not the so-called “black book” was used inappropriately against black officers, a grand jury lent credence to the officers’ sense of distrust and fear about Sanders’ investigative techniques when it handed down indictments against the detective and his supervisor, Sgt. Tom Fox, last September. Sanders is charged with illegally accessing a federal government computer used by Fulmore, and with a related obstruction of justice charge. Two additional obstruction of justice charges against Sanders allege that he tried to undermine investigative efforts by Norman Rankin and Ernest Cuthbertson, two former members of the special intelligence unit who are black. Fox is charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy in connection with the incident, which is alleged to have taken place in late June 2005, just as the City Manager’s Office was first hearing allegations of the existence of a “black book” targeting black officers.
Questions about the document filtered down through Wray and Brady, and on July 8, 2005, Sanders drafted an internal memo describing two photographic lineups he had created. The first, discussed at length in the memo, was created to determine which black officers might have attended a bachelor party for Lt. James Hinson held in 1997. One paragraph tucked at the end of the two-page memo also described the 19-page photographic lineup.
A prostitute had alleged that a uniformed black police officer came to her room at the Relax Inn on the basis of a complaint that she had been selling drugs, and the officer groped her in the bathroom, according to the Keller letter, which was first published by The Troublemaker blog maintained by Ben Holder. After a second unwanted visit by the unidentified police officer in connection with a nearby breaking and entering offense, the prostitute reportedly changed rooms.
“I searched records and compiled a list of all black police officers who were on duty in uniform at the time frame that the victim/witness said that this incident occurred,” Sanders reported to Deputy Chief Brady in July 2005. “This resulted in nineteen separate photographic lineups being created…. These lineups are housed n the case file book and shown to the victim/witness; this is a one-inch three-ring black notebook. This is specific to this case and was not shown at any other time.”
Nowhere in the memo does Sanders mention the date of the alleged assault on which he relied to determine which black police officers to include in the lineup. His lawyer, Seth Cohen, did not return calls for this story.
Maurice Cawn, police attorney for the department, indicated in an e-mail that the allegation arose when the prostitute told a second police officer, who then relayed it to Sanders. Cawn said no report was generated to document the incident at the time it was alleged to have happened, which he estimated as sometime in December 2004 or January 2005.
The Keller letter indicates that “as part of his investigation, Detective Sanders contacted the Relax Inn Hotel and obtained copies of receipts and records verifying the informant’s occupancy of the room and room change. Detective Sanders also requested that a female investigative specialist with the Greensboro Police Department perform computer searches. The investigative specialist ran the searches using one of the computers in her office equipped with licensed [computer assisted dispatch] software for this purpose.”
Sanders’ hit some walls, the Keller letter indicates: “The initial search was for any reports of calls or responses involving the sale of drugs at the Relax Inn Hotel during the time period in question. This search revealed no such calls. Another search was for calls in the vicinity. This search indicated there was a call dealing with a possible breaking and entering on an adjacent street, and identified an officer in connection with this call. Another search was performed for black uniformed officers with patrol cars working during the time period in question.”
Whether the investigative specialist willingly cooperated with Sanders’ request for help with creation of the photographic lineups remains a matter of dispute.
The Risk Management Associates Report, prepared for the Greensboro Legal Department in late 2005, indicates that “when Sanders first attempted to have a civilian GPD employee create these ‘lineups,’ she resisted. Sanders or Fox contacted Brady, who called the supervisor of that employee and directed the creation of the requested lineups.”
The Keller letter suggests that if the city were to interview the investigative specialist, she would corroborate the assertion that the document was created as a legitimate investigative tool.
When the prostitute was shown the lineups on Feb. 13, 2005, she was unable to identify any of the officers in the lineup, the Keller letter indicates.
Brady, the former deputy chief, acknowledged in a November 2005 interview with Risk Management Associates President Michael Longmire and Assistant City Attorney Blair Carr that he locked the three-ringed binder in the trunk of his police vehicle after allegations of a “black book” spread through the department in the wake of the disclosure that the undercover unit had put Lt. Hinson under surveillance.
“When the allegation of a black book come out, the chief held some meetings and wanted to know about the existence of a black book,” Brady told Longmire and Carr. “In the briefings, nothing came out about a black book. All that was talked about was a lineup with X number of photographs and such. Later, I came into possession of it and I asked them, I said – well I actually asked Tom. I said, ‘You guys mentioned there was no black book.’ I said, ‘And here it is.'”
Later, after Wray resigned as chief, he disputed the notion that he had evaded the city manager’s questions about the photographic lineups. He did not take questions after giving the statement to reporters, and has not honored interview requests from YES! Weekly in the two years that have transpired.
“Chief Brady initially secured the photo array book by getting it from the detective and putting it in his office,” the statement reads. “A few days later, Chief Brady became concerned that his office may not have been the most secure location for this book (he could not lock his desk and was uncertain as to the number of individuals who might have a key that opened his office door). Therefore, after advising me, Chief Brady locked the book in the truck of his city-owned police car.”
“Did the police chief ever direct you to order an investigation that there was a black book and that it was being inappropriately – by members of the your department to single out black officers as being the target of an investigation,” Longmire asked Brady in November 2005.
“No, sir,” Brady responded.
In an earlier interview, Longmire and fellow investigator Wayne Truaxe had asked Brady if photographic lineups were used by Sanders to indiscriminately gather damaging information about black officers.
“Are you talking about the one where there’s the allegations in the motel room?” Brady asked.
“Well, we’re trying to figure out what folks are talking about because this is what’s happening,” Longmire replied. “Every prostitute, every junkie, just about anybody in Greensboro or Guilford County or surrounding counties that might have information about the inappropriate activities of a black Greensboro police officer has been shown some kind of a book or lineup or something. I mean, that’s an exaggeration, but that’s the – you know, that’s the concern. We’re trying to figure out what book they’re talking about.”
The Keller letter indicates that when the black three-ringed binder was turned over to Longmire, it contained a printout of computer assisted dispatch files, commonly called CAD reports, for service calls; 19 tabbed dividers; 19 photographic lineups; a full-page photo of the prostitute; a printout of the prostitute’s criminal history; police reports on the prostitute, whether as a victim or suspect; copies of hotel receipts and records from the Relax Inn; and a printout of a CAD search for employees on duty. The letter indicates that staff should be able to provide these materials to council members to dispel the notion that the document was created and used for some nefarious purpose.
The police department was still trying to locate CAD reports to an alleged sexual assault at the Relax Inn in response to a public records request by YES! Weekly at press time. The department has indicated that many other documents associated with the photographic lineups remain protected from public scrutiny. That includes the July 2005 memo from Sanders and Brady, although the department verified the authenticity of the document after it was leaked to The Troublemaker blog and to The Rhinoceros Times.
“The memo from SE Sanders to former Deputy Chief GR Brady while perhaps initially part of an internal communication became an item of evidence for a criminal investigation,” Cawn said by e-mail. “I believe it is part of the investigation material held by the State Bureau of Investigation in a pending trial.”
While a clamor for transparency on the photographic lineups recently culminated in a failed effort to remove the city manager by a 7-2 vote, many city leaders are content to let the courts sort out the dispute.
“The controversy for me was the denial that it existed as opposed to anything physically having to do with the ‘black book’ itself,” at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins said. “The denial of existence of the ‘black book’ to the manager was a big part of the situation…. I’d like to see these issues settled in court.”
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.