OFFICERS IN CHIEF'S FAVOR PROTECTED, SOME COPS SAY - The Explorer: Import

OFFICERS IN CHIEF'S FAVOR PROTECTED, SOME COPS SAY

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Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2002 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Marana Police Department employees say that the only thing more disturbing than MPD officer misconduct cases that grab headlines are the cases that few people ever hear about.

Officers allege in interviews and documents that a pattern of favoritism exists in the Marana Police Department, with some officers repeatedly accused of wrongdoing and cleared during internal investigations, while other officers feel the full wrath of MPD Police Chief David R. Smith's discipline for the slightest infraction.

A review of three years of MPD internal affairs investigation case reports and interviews with individuals close to the misconduct cases found validity in the officers' claims.

One of the most serious allegations of repeated misconduct involves Officer Calvin Ingram, a married, 32-year-old veteran patrol officer accused in 2000 of kissing and harassing a 15-year old Marana Police Explorer and later harassing another underage girl.

Ingram was cleared by MPD in the incidents, despite protests from the police Explorer's parents that MPD was "covering" for Ingram and an investigator in the Arizona Attorney General's Office who said his mind "boggled at the lack of inaction in the case."

More recently, Ingram was investigated by the MPD in October for allegedly tipping off a 23-year-old woman whom he knew, and who he may have dated, that there were warrants outstanding for her arrest. Ingram allegedly also failed to arrest her for those warrants when he had contact with her.

The boyfriend of the woman at the time of the incidents, now in prison, claims Ingram had contact with the woman and questioned him weeks later in an attempt to find out the name of the police officer who reported the original incident. While questioning him, the boyfriend said Ingram told him that he would "make sure he never had to go back" to prison.

Ingram has also been questioned and cleared in three other MPD internal investigations, according to department records.

Ingram has never been formally charged or convicted of any criminal or civil violations in any of the cases. MPD investigators cleared Ingram of wrongdoing in the incidents and ruled all the accusations as unfounded.

Ingram did not respond to messages requesting comment left for him at his home and at the Marana Police Department. Smith has also failed to respond to repeated requests for an interview.

The police Explorer program, which exists in many police departments nationwide, involves young people age 14 to 21 in police training and other activities as a way of exposing them to law enforcement as a possible career choice.

Ingram was removed as an adviser to the Explorer program when the investigation of the 15-year-old's allegations began March 2, 2000. The girl voluntarily left the program at about the same time.

The girl first told a Marana High School teacher that Ingram kissed her on three separate occasions while she was under his supervision, according to the MPD internal investigation report. The teacher reported the girl's accusation to the school's resource officer who in turn informed Ingram's supervisor.

The girl said the first incident occurred Feb. 17. 2000 when she was folding clothes in a report-writing office at the Marana police station during her Explorer training. She said Ingram grabbed her by the cheek and kissed her on the lips, according to the report.

The girl said Ingram told her "you better take this to your grave" after the kiss. The girl said Ingram told her she was "cute" and gave her his pager number and told her to page him later.

Ingram denied ever kissing the girl, telling an MPD investigator that he only "moved his face very close to hers."

When asked why he moved his face just inches from hers, Ingram said "he didn't know why," according to the report.

The girl said a second incident occurred Feb. 22, 2000 after the girl rode along with Ingram on his normal patrol duties.

The police Explorer said Ingram leaned over while driving and again kissed her "and that she could feel his tongue on her lips."

The girl said Ingram put his arms around her and kissed her two or three more times as she waited for her ride home in the lobby of the police station after the ride-along.

The girl told investigators that Ingram commented to her that he "was unhappy in his marriage and asked her if she liked children."

Ingram told the girl that he liked her and wanted to have a relationship with her, she said.

When asked by investigators if Ingram "forced" the kisses upon her, the girl said he had not, but that she "didn't know what to do" once he started. In responses to questions from investigators, the girl said she had not been touched in any private areas.

Marana High School Principal Jan Truitt said she was made aware of the situation by the school's resource officer, John Montgomery. Truitt said the teacher never contacted her about the accusations and she did not know the teacher's identity.

On the advice of the Marana High School teacher, the girl reportedly wrote a letter to Ingram saying she felt uncomfortable with the kisses and asking that the officer not kiss her in the future, according to the internal investigation report.

The report said she planned to give the letter to Ingram at an Explorer meeting March 2. Investigators interviewed the girl shortly before the meeting was scheduled to begin and she instead turned the letter over to them. Ingram was interviewed shortly after the girl detailed her allegations and he was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a lie detector test.

Ingram passed all five questions asked during the polygraph, according to Robert Sales, who administered the test, and copies of the polygraph examination results.

After the Explorer's parents were informed that Ingram had passed the lie detector test, the girl's mother "insinuated the investigation was done in an incomplete manner in order to coverup (Ingram's) actions," according to an MPD lieutenant's report.

The mother also alleged that Explorer advisers stress "internal secrecy" and tell Explorers not to divulge information to their parents, according to the report.

When an MPD investigator suggested that the girl take a polygraph, her parents refused to allow her to take the test.

The Northwest EXPLORER was unable to locate the girl or her parents. MPD sources close to the case, and an investigator in the Arizona Attorney General's Office Civil Right's Division, say the girl and her parents moved out of state after dropping the case.

"They communicated to me that they were very frustrated by the lack of action in the case by the MPD and our office, and rightly so," the state investigator said.

The investigator, who asked for anonymity, said he was one of at least four or five employees in the Attorney General's Office to have been assigned the case in about a year's time.

"They came to us after Marana apparently wouldn't take any action in the case. There was tremendous turnover happening (in the Tucson office of the Attorney General's Civil Rights Division) and like four or five people have had this case on their desk at some point and time. They would be assigned the case, begin investigating it, and then be transferred or quit to take another job and the case file would be handed off to their replacement," the state investigator said.

The complaint was filed by the police Explorer's parents with the Attorney General's Office April 25, 2000, according to town records. The state case was closed without any resolution in June 2001.

The state has refused to release any of the investigative records, claiming the documents are exempt from Arizona's Public Record's Law.

"The parents had thrown up their hands and pretty much given up," the state investigator said. "I understand their frustration, and I wish it had been handled better. It bothers me on a personal level that this officer was apparently using the authority he projects as a police officer."

Shortly after the state investigation of Ingram allegedly kissing the police Explorer had begun, a 17-year-old girl came forward and claimed she had been "accosted by Ingram in a similar manner" outside a Conoco gas station in Marana, the state source said.

The investigator in the AG's office said much of the state's investigative focus remained on the police Explorer's case, because of inconsistencies in the second girl's statements. It was also discovered that the second girl also attended Marana High School and was a friend of the Explorer.

"I think there was validity to the second girl's claim, but it was just going to be a much tougher case to prove," the source said.

Ingram, in uniform and accompanied by his attorney, was interviewed at least once by AG investigators at the Attorney General's Office in downtown Tucson in early 2001. Ingram denied the girls' accusations during the interview, the state source said.

Ingram's attorney in the case was paid for by Southwest Risk, the town of Marana's insurance provider, according to documents obtained from the town.

In an interview shortly after the investigation was closed, Smith, Marana's police chief, refused to release the names of the girl, her parents, or the teacher who reported the police Explorer's accusations.

Smith initially refused to release Ingram's name, but confirmed it after the Northwest EXPLORER was able to identify the officer from other sources within the department.

Smith said at the time that Ingram was no longer affiliated with the Explorer program, but emphasized "that was his own choice."

Smith said the case was not forwarded to the Pima County Attorney's Office for further investigation because the girl said she was not touched in a "sexual nature."

"It was a case of he-said, she-said," Smith said.

One former MPD officer and another officer still employed by the department who worked closely on the Explorer case, said Smith seemed reluctant to thoroughly investigate Ingram.

Both individuals, speaking independently and on the condition of anonymity, pointed to Smith's overriding investigators' recommendation that a "confrontation call" be made by the girl to Ingram.

A confrontation call is a common investigative technique in which a victim or witness places a phone call to a perpetrator to discuss details of a crime. The conversation is recorded by investigators to be used as evidence.

The sources said a confrontation call would have been the quickest and surest way to determine if Ingram had done anything wrong with the girl.

"The chief was dead set against it," the former officer said. "As soon as it was suggested, he said 'There's no way I'm going to entrap one of my own officers,' which I thought was pretty strange. I mean, we use confrontation calls all the time when investigating people in the general public, and there has never been any suggestion from him that it was entrapment."

Former and current officers in the department said Smith and Ingram maintain a friendship and four of them said they believed Smith "protected" Ingram during internal investigations.

"It's a very strange relationship between the two of them. Chief likes to hear about Calvin's escapades and it's like he lives vicariously through them," one veteran officer said.

Ingram became the subject of a another MPD internal investigation after Ronald Roberts was arrested Aug. 26 in the Honea Heights neighborhood of northwest Marana.

MPD patrol officer Ray Garcia saw Roberts suspiciously trying to open the gate to a home on Swanson Road, according to a police report.

Garcia arrested Roberts after confirming the warrants over his radio, and was placing him in the back of his patrol car when the officer noticed a woman sleeping in Roberts' car, the police report said.

The woman, Roberts' 23-year-old girlfriend Jamie Henson, had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant and was also placed under arrest by Garcia.

According to a Oct. 27 internal investigation report, Ingram arrived to help transport the prisoners to jail when Roberts began protesting to Garcia that he did not want "Ingram around his girlfriend because (Ingram) had recently spent the night in one of the local motels (in the) Cortaro and Interstate 10 area with Jamie Henson," according to the report.

Henson could not be located for comment.

Roberts, who is currently serving a one year sentence in a minimum security prison in Florence for an unrelated criminal trespass conviction, confirmed he objected to Ingram being the officer to transport his girlfriend to jail.

"Jamie told me that he used to ask her out on dates when she was in (Marana High School,)" Roberts said in an interview July 29.

Lt. Bruce Thomas, who wrote the initial report to Smith characterized the allegation as a "serious incident" and added, "If this is true, and Calvin Ingram was aware of Jamie Henson's status, this is a serious offense. I was told that it was rumored previous to this event that Calvin was fraternizing with subject Henson."

Prior to Garcia's Aug. 26 arrest of Roberts and Henson's, Garcia, and MPD Officer Chris Lee had been searching Marana's rural northwest side for Henson in order to arrest her for the warrants, the report said.

Thomas' report to Smith said Garcia and Lee had questioned an unidentified person while looking for Henson a few weeks prior to her arrest and were told the person had seen Ingram with "Henson during the time the warrant was active."

On Oct. 9, 45 days after Roberts complained to the officer arresting him about Ingram, the Northwest EXPLORER learned of the allegations through sources in the department and filed a public records request with Smith for the internal investigation records.

Smith refused the request, passing a message through a MPD public information officer that the internal investigation had not been completed.

According to copies of the reports that were obtained last month, the internal investigation of Ingram was conducted Oct. 24, or almost two months after Roberts and Henson's arrest, and 15 days after the EXPLORER requested the documents from Smith.

The internal investigation documents obtained from MPD consisted of a Sept. 18 two-page letter to Smith from Thomas alerting him to the allegations against Ingram, and a one page memo to Smith from Ingram's supervisor Lt. Joe Carrasco dated Oct. 27 announcing that "the allegations are unfounded."

According to Carrasco's memo, the complaint was cleared for reasons that included the arresting officer and the other officer that had been searching for Henson saying the complaint wasn't warranted; Henson saying she was acquainted with Ingram but denying a "relationship"; and Ingram also denying that he had a relationship existed or that he talked to her about "law enforcement matters."

No copies of interviews with Ingram, Henson or the arresting officer were contained in the documents requested by the EXPLORER, although other internal investigation records obtained in unrelated public records requests contained such records, including other internal investigations of Ingram.

Roberts apparently wasn't interviewed by MPD at all.

Roberts claims he was questioned by Ingram about the source of the internal investigation after he was again arrested by MPD and transported to jail by Ingram two months ago for the criminal trespass charge he's imprisoned for.

"Ingram's words were that he wanted to find out who the snitch was in the department and stuff like that," Roberts said "He asked me what I told that officer and I told him that I thought he and Jamie were seeing each other, and he said that wasn't the case. And I told him 'didn't you and Jamie date in high school?' and he said, no, that he wasn't even around when she was in high school."

According to court records, Henson would have turned 18 on Nov. 29, 1998. Ingram's MPD personnel file indicates he joined the department in January 1999.

Roberts claims Ingram also "tried to tell me, 'when you get out of there, you call me and I'll take care of you. I'll make sure you don't go back to that place' and all that, trying to butter up to me."

Roberts, who has numerous criminal convictions including possession of drug paraphernalia and escape, said he believed there was a relationship between Henson and Ingram.

"Just the way that they act around each other, the way that he always comes to transport her, being that, I don't know, when you violate your probation you go to jail. And Jamie never does," Roberts said. "I've been arrested numerous in that area with Jamie, and every time Ingram would show up, and one cop would take me and Ingram would always take Jamie."

Roberts said he also knows that Ingram spent two hours with Henson outside a Jack in the Box restaurant on Ina Road while Ingram was in uniform and in his patrol car at a time he believes the warrants for Henson were active.

"We was in a Motel 6 and she came up missing during the night time and I went out to try and find her she was with Calvin Ingram," Roberts said. "They were across the street at a restaurant, outside the restaurant. He was inside the car, she was outside the car… and being as I had warrants I couldn't go over and get my girlfriend, you know? So I just went back to the motel. They must have been over there for two hours.

"At the time, I was using drugs, and I didn't even think nothing that maybe she was seeing Ingram, I was thinking that she was trying to set me up, the paranoid type stuff. And I told her 'why did you talk to that cop for!' and she just said, 'he was going to arrest me!' So I left it at that."

Roberts, who is expected to be released in October, expressed concern about telling his story to the EXPLORER

"I have to go back to this same neighborhood when I get out and I will see Ingram again," he said.

In addition to allegedly harassing the two teen-age girls and his reported involvement with Jamie Henson, Ingram has surfaced in three other MPD internal investigations over the last three years.

Last year, a man arrested for drunk driving accused Ingram of stealing $10 from his wallet and scrolling through his cell phone for phone numbers of known criminals. Ingram was cleared in the subsequent internal investigation.

In 1999, a woman at the New West/Gotham nightclub on Ina Road claimed Ingram was rude to her. The woman later withdrew the complaint.

Also in 1999 at the New West/Gotham, a man complained that Ingram and several other officers working as off duty security at the bar took his drivers license and were harassing him. All the officers were cleared in the case.

INVESTIGATIONS

Marana Police Chief David R. Smith uses internal investigations to punish or reward those under his command, some officers claim, and a review of three years of MPD discipline reports by the Northwest EXPLORER found a marked inconsistency in how the chief handled similar violations by different officers.

"The chief affects policy differently on different people," said Bill Conley, who resigned last month after serving six years as a reserve officer. "It depends on who you are, and if he likes you or not. He has a tendency to separate officers, to 'divide and conquer' as most people in the department call it."

Lt. Bruce Thomas served 17 years with the MPD until he resigned last month. Officers say he was a critic of Smith, and endured years of harassment by the chief.

Last month, he exploded in the presence of an MPD sergeant with a string of obscenities directed at Smith. He also made an obscene gesture toward the chief's vacant office, and allegedly threatened Marana's parks and recreation director.

For his outburst, Thomas was slapped with an internal investigation for five separate violations of department policy. He resigned before the investigation could be completed.

Thomas vehemently denied that he voiced any threat to the parks and recreation director, but refused any further comment. Sources in the department said Thomas is considering a lawsuit against the MPD, and is courting several other job offers.

In contrast, MPD Officer Will Hess received two separate complaints in a nine day period of 1999 for making obscene gestures at citizens, and was cleared both times. In the first incident on June 8, 1999, Hess allegedly extended his middle finger at a passing motorist while he was doing traffic control at an accident scene at Ina Road and Meredith Boulevard. Hess denied the allegation and was cleared.

On June 17, 1999, a clerk employed in the Pima County Sheriff's Office driving past Hess in the parking lot of the Kmart at Ina and Thornydale roads claimed she too got the bird.

An unidentified investigator interviewed Hess after the second incident and wrote in his report that "Hess has no idea where these complaints were coming from as he did not 'flip the bird at people.'"

The investigator noted while interviewing Hess that the officer frequently gestured with his index finger while talking. The investigator concluded that people were mistaking Hess's emphatic index finger pointing as an obscene gesture - despite the fact that reports indicate Hess was by himself in both incidents.

Former MPD officer Louis "Doug" Torres incurred five citizen complaints of rudeness and misconduct in slightly more than a one year period and was cleared of wrongdoing each time.

In his last internal investigation before leaving to take a job with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Torres was accused Aug. 23, 1999 by several students, three teachers and the assistant principal of Mountain Rose High School of harassing students and faculty at the charter school.

Students smoking outside the school, which is next door to the MPD substation at Orange Grove and Thornydale roads, claim they were confronted by Torres. When one of the students said he was 18 and could legally smoke, Torres became stern with the students to the point where teachers felt a need to intervene, according to the report.

The teacher told Torres that the student was of legal age, that the man was allowed to smoke, and the school was private property.

An assistant principal who later called Torres claims the officer told him that "it was against the law (for the students) to have tobacco even in their cars" and that the adult students "might be affecting some of the younger people," according to the report.

Officer Roberto Jimenez also received an internal investigation for rudeness and employee misconduct, but unlike Torres, he wasn't cleared.

Jimenez and six other officers, along with Marana Town Clerk Jocelyn Entz, met with the corporate affairs manager for Comcast Cable April 2 to solicit a sponsorship for a charity event the department was organizing.

According to the investigation, Jimenez "acted unprofessionally" during the meeting by laughing, joking, making an offensive gesture and "speaking out against the department administration and the town council."

Jimenez, referring to the police department's union, allegedly "boasted about the (Marana Police Officers') Association coming down on the town like thunder," according to the report.

Patricia Collins, the representative from Comcast at the meeting, told investigators that Jimenez was "loud and joking a lot," but she wasn't offended.

In way of discipline, Jimenez was denied a pending transfer to MPD's community resources division, and reassigned to patrol duties.

Prior to the punishment being handed down, Jimenez expressed concern to the internal affairs investigator that another officer was "campaigning" against him and the "chief of police will use this as an excuse to stop the transfer," the report said.

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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