Date: January 1, 2001
To: Santa Rosa Mayor, City Council, and Community
From: Women's Justice Center
Re: Violence Against
Women and Police Accountability
August 24th, 2,000,
we wrote to then Mayor Janet Condron and the Santa Rosa City Council
outlining seven victim case complaints against Santa Rosa Police
for their mishandling of rape and domestic violence. These case
complaints originated between May and August, 2,000. In that letter
we provided an array of leads to witnesses and physical evidence
supporting those complaints. We also described the police defensiveness
and cover-ups we had experienced over the last year and a half
as we attempted to bring a steady flow of such victim complaints
to the attention of SRPD officials.
Because of our strong
dissatisfaction with police response to our previous case complaints,
our August 24th letter urgently requested that Santa Rosa City
Council provide for independent review of the seven more recent
In the four months
since our August 24th letter and request for independent review:
- Mayor Condron and
the Santa Rosa City Council denied our request for independent
review of the seven case complaints,
- Instead Mayor Condron
and the City Council asked the Police Chief to convene a series
of meetings with the YWCA, United Against Sexual Assault, Redwood
Children's Center, representatives of Santa Rosa City Council
and our organization, Women's Justice Center,
- In the course of
those three meetings, Santa Rosa Police presented a written
report of their investigations into the seven case complaints.
At no point were these SRPD findings questioned or reviewed
by the group, nor at any point did any of the participants seek
to inspect any of the plentiful evidence leads we provided pertaining
to these complaints.
- The one substantive
outcome of these meetings was a plan for SRPD chief Dunbaugh
to convene two working groups; one to focus on language translation,
and the other to focus on internal quality control at SRPD.
Though this is a beginning, it is grossly insufficient to resolve
a problem which calls for much broader and deeper digging. It
also doesn't begin to resolve the monumental problem that if
Santa Rosa Police say that the sun rises in the West, then Santa
Rosa City Council, without further ado, seems satisfied to set
the public's course based on the fact that the sun rises in
- Most troublesome,
in the four months since our August 24th letter, we have received
eight new complaints from victims of rape and domestic violence
regarding SRPD response to the victims' calls for help.
strongly believe that the SRPD problems with handling of violence
against women as well as the problem of exodus of female officers
(10 since July 1996) cannot be resolved until there is willingness
to look squarely at the problem. The report presented by police
on the case complaints illustrates as well as anything why it
is foolhardy for the community to rely on self-investigation by
police for any assessment of the problems. And why it is cruel
and unjust to shunt victims' complaints back into the hands of
the same police that denied them justice in the first place.
is a critique of just one case example from the police report..
We choose the section of their report dealing with case #2 because
it is the shortest and can most quickly be responded to in full.
But the police biases, cover-up, and deceptions illustrated in
this example permeate the police report throughout.
report of their investigation into the detective's handling of
Case #2 reads in its entirety:
detective assigned to the case attempted to contact the victim
by telephone on the date that it was assigned (one day after the
initial report). There was no answer. The detective contacted
the victim approximately one week later. At that time, the victim
declined to participate in an interview at the Redwood Children's
Center. She did agree to speak with the detective on the telephone
and a brief interview took place. The victim told the detective
that she was no longer seeing the suspect and that she did not
know where the suspect lived. Further investigation ultimately
led to the detective identifying the suspect, interviewing him
and obtaining an arrest warrant. The suspect was arrested and
on September 26, 2,000, plead guilty to several counts of unlawful
reading this report would be assured that nothing was amiss in
the detective's handling of the case. If anything, the report
engenders a certain sympathy for the detective who had to deal
with a victim who was apparently less than cooperative and who
didn't know much. Yet the reality is, as you'll quickly see, that
the Santa Rosa Police detective was dumping a serious case of
child molestation, a case that had ample, easy to obtain evidence,
and a victim who was completely cooperative. And the detective
continued dumping the case even after we complained to police
superiors and after we had written the August open letter to the
at this report section by section:
detective contacted the victim approximately one week later. At
that time, the victim declined to participate in an interview
at the Redwood Children's Center."
- Assuming this statement
is true, the report neglects to mention that "the victim" here
is a child under 14 years of age and as such, there was no way
that "the victim" was capable of evaluating the significance
of an interview at the Redwood Children's Center. And there
is no way that a detective serious about doing the case would
have left that decision to a child. The fact is that at every
point in the process, this girl openly and cooperatively answered
questions from all officials. But the statement in the above
police report, without mention of the girl's age, leads the
reader to form an opinion of an uncooperative victim of unknown
- The statement (and
the rest of the report) neglects to mention that the detective
did not, as should have been done, contact the victim's mother
to set up the interview at Redwood Children's Center, even though
the victim and her mother had the same phone number and the
same residence since the initial report, and were available
at that same phone number on a daily basis. In fact, the detective
never contacted the victim's mother until more than six weeks
after the initial report, and then only after complaints had
- Perhaps most significant,
police wrote the above statement even though, according to the
mother and the victim, neither of them were contacted by the
police during the investigation into the detective's handling
of the case. This then is not, as it was put out to be, a report
of an investigation, it's a public relations piece spun from
the report of the detective who was supposedly being investigated.
No impartial or sincere investigator would have neglected to
call the victim and her mother for their version of events.
"The victim told
the detective she was no longer seeing the suspect..."
- That the victim
was no longer seeing the suspect gives the reader the impression
that there was no big deal here, no urgency, since the criminal
activity had stopped. But the fact that a crime is no longer
occurring should, of course, have nothing to do with whether
or not the crime is investigated. Would you want multiple felony
sex crimes against your child ignored just because the crimes
had stopped? This mother certainly didn't, and she and her whole
family suffered immeasurably, as we'll explain, because the
case was being dumped.
The statement also
implies that the child was in control of what this man was doing
"...and that she
(the victim) did not know where the suspect lived."
- The victim DID know
where the suspect lived, she always knew where the suspect lived,
and when we were finally able to apply enough pressure to get
the case moving (three months after the initial report), the
detective immediately knew how to get that information from
detective simply got in a car, picked up the girl and her mother
at their home, and said to the girl, `show me where the man lives'.
It is true that the girl didn't know the number address and the
street name, just like most kids can't give a number address and
street name of even their best friends. But the girl ALWAYS knew
where the man lived and the detective could have found out from
the girl where the man lived at any time, the same way every detective
knows how to get an address from a child when they want it.
The truth is the detective
was dumping the case, and the public needs to know that this is
what it looks like when detectives dump cases. The detective buries
the case under these little slights of hand. The detective's supervisor
sees that the detective has come up with a `workable defense'
for not moving on the case, and work on the case is stopped.
ultimately led to the detective identifying the suspect, interviewing
him and obtaining an arrest warrant. "
- What's left out
of this statement is all the pressure that had to be applied
from the outside to make each one of these things happen. Also
left out is the intolerable time span it took to do them. Even
after the detective had gotten the victim to show where the
man lived, even after we had complained all the way up the police
department ranks, even after we had made a public written complaint
to the City Council and the press, the case investigation was
again dead in the water.
To get things moving
again we had to take the additional step of going to a deputy
DA who cares about these cases and ask him to add his weight to
"The suspect was
suspect was arrested on September 9th. An impartial investigator
would never have left out this fact, nor would they have left
out that this was a solid five months after the mother, the girl,
and their doctor made the initial report to Santa Rosa Police
Department in early April, 2,000. The report also neglects to
mention that the evidence needed for the case could have been
gathered in a matter of days.
"...and on September
26, 2,000, plead guilty to several counts of unlawful sexual intercourse."
The man was charged
with 24 felony counts of child sexual abuse; 12 felony counts
of PC 288 (child molestation) and 12 felony counts of 261.5 (unlawful
sexual intercourse). The statement also neglects to mention that
the man pled to and was convicted of 6 felony counts of 261.5
waiving even his right to a preliminary hearing. An impartial
investigator would never have referred to this information as
Most of the facts we've
presented here can be verified by a check of documents on the
needs to know a couple of other things that were left out of the
police report. The mother of the girl is a Spanish-speaking single
mother of three children who worked two jobs to sustain herself
and her children. The detective is Spanish-speaking too. Knowing
this, the public can begin to understand that the case wasn't
being dumped because of any technical difficulty with language,
though that would be no excuse either. Most likely the case was
being dumped, like so many other cases we see, simply because
officials figured the victim and her family wouldn't be able to
find any effective way to complain. Once knowing the range of
dynamics in an array of these cases being dumped by police, the
public can then begin to ask critical questions about what kinds
of system controls are necessary to protect all people's rights
to police services. But first we must have honest, independent,
and impartial descriptions of the problem.
the most poignant thing left out of the report on this case is
the tormenting consequences to the family resulting from police
denial of help. In early April, when the mother never received
the follow-up phone call from police that was promised by the
responding officer, she had no idea where to turn. She went to
the school principle for help for her daughter, and found no help
there. She then began to call another police jurisdiction. Because
the officers who answered the phone at the second jurisdiction
didn't speak Spanish, the mother had to put her 10 year old son
on the phone to try to explain the complex problem about the girl
to police. The mother made five such calls to Windsor Police.
Windsor Police never came to the mother's residence, nor to her
assistance, though it's difficult to know exactly what information
the boy communicated to police. Nonetheless, it wasn't until over
two months after the initial report that the mother found her
way to a social worker who then referred the mother to us.
meantime, however, the mother's landlord, who regularly obtained
public records of police calls originated from his housing complex,
noted the five calls made to police from the mother's address.
Those five calls made by the mother to Windsor Police became the
sole basis for the landlord writing a "notice of cause" against
the mother, the first step in the eviction process.
is the kind of snowballing of critical life problems that overtake
victims when police deny services. It is something we see on a
daily basis, because police denial of protection and justice is
so common, especially in the minority communities we serve
denial of protection, combined with police's incurable cover-ups
of complaints is a deadly mix for the women and children of Santa
urge you to provide an effective mechanism of independent review
of police where the people can take their complaints.