Date: July 10, 2001
Chief Michael Dunbaugh
Santa Rosa Police Department
Santa Rosa, CA
Chief Michael Dunbaugh,
the last fourteen months we have brought you close to thirty complaints
from victims of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse who were
deeply disturbed by the treatment they got from the Santa Rosa
Police officers who responded to their calls for help. In the
year and a half prior we brought dozens more such complaints to
the attention of your ranking officers. Here's another complaint.
In this case we are
writing with the mother and aunt of a Latina victim of child sex
abuse to express our concerns about the responses of two Santa
Rosa police officers. The case was reported to SRPD in early June.
In brief, according
to both the victim's mother and aunt as told to me in separate
conversations, responding officer Akin repeatedly told the family
this case was not a priority, repeatedly implied it wasn't criminal,
lectured the child victim about her behavior, verbally defended
the perpetrator, didn't take basic evidence seriously, and misinformed
the family about basic criminal justice matters.
At a later date, according
to the girl's mother, Sgt. Schwedhelm misinformed the mother about
her rights in an attempt to dissuade her from exercising those
rights, and he tried to dissuade the mother from using Women's
Justice Center as their advocates in this case.
early June, the mother of the 16 year old victim called Santa
Rosa Police to report that an adult male (approximately 25 years
of age) was coming to her daughter's school, taking the girl out
of school, and having sex with her.
When officer Akin responded
to the home, the victim, the victim's mother, and the victim's
aunt were present. Following that response the victim's mother
and the victim's aunt talked to me separately. Both were deeply
distraught, and in fact shocked, by the officer's response to
the call. The accounts given to me separately by the aunt and
by the mother were identical. Both women are professionals in
According to both the
girl's mother and aunt, responding officer Mike Aiken repeatedly
said things that indicated the case wouldn't be taken very seriously.
In fact, Aiken said so in as many words with comments such as,
"This case is not a priority on the list." He said these things
in front of the victim. Additionally, when Officer Aiken was leaving,
he said to the mother (who was alone for a moment), "This case
is not a priority. There's a lot of labor migrants in Sonoma County
and a lot of domestic violence. Your case is not a priority."
told to me, Officer Akin also said a number of things in front
of the victim, the mother, and the aunt indicating that this case
was no big deal and hardly criminal. Aiken said twice, on the
first response in front of the victim, and again the next day,
"I'm not going to throw dirt on this guy, because I don't know
him.", treating the family's report as if it were mere gossip.
Akin also said, "It isn't a crime for him to pull her out of school."
And when the mother tried to describe the hand print type marks
she had noticed on her daughter's body, Akin didn't take notes,
he argued with the mother, and said, "Oh, it could have been anything."
In describing this, the girl's mother said to me, "It was like
he was trying to get it over with and get back to his real work."
What was most disturbing
to both the girl's mother and aunt was the way Officer Akin treated
the girl and the things he said to the girl. According to both
women, Akin told the girl, "You've made a mistake. Maybe you don't
regret it now but you will in the future."
Akin also told the
girl, "If this guy loves you so much, why doesn't he wait two
years. I waited two years for my wife until she was 18." And Akin
said to the girl, "If you're pregnant, this is someone you're
going to have to deal with the rest of your life."
girl's mother said to me, "He (Akin) was giving my daughter totally
the wrong message, like she did something wrong." In a separate
conversation, the girl's aunt said to me, "He (Akin) was treating
this like it was consensual and he was lecturing the victim. He
was treating her like it was the girl's fault."
In addition, both women
were very disturbed that Officer Akin didn't take notes, other
than basic names and addresses. And when the women asked for a
protective order, Akin told them that you can only give an EPO
for domestic violence, and then changed his explanation the next
On the second day,
when I talked with officer Akin he told me they couldn't issue
an EPO because they didn't know who the suspect was (not true,
the mother had given the officer the suspect's name the night
before), Aiken then told me they didn't know how to contact the
suspect, (not true, the mother had given the officer the suspect's
telephone number and hangout location the night before), officer
Aiken then told me that in order to serve the EPO police always
have to get a statement from the suspect. (Not true). Though there
are reasons for and against getting an EPO in this kind of case,
Aiken was willing to throw out complete fabrications to prove
it couldn't be done.
a week after the initial report when the family hadn't received
any follow-up call from police, the mother asked me to call and
find out if a detective had been assigned to the case and, if
so, to find out the name of the detective. When I called the sex
crimes unit, I was told by a detective that she couldn't find
the case. Following that call, my messages weren't returned for
the next two days. The day following that, I was told by the same
detective that since this was a child abuse case, that all information
was confidential, and, as such, they could not tell me the name
of the detective assigned to the case. Despite the fact that I
had already communicated with Schwedhelm on the case, Sgt. Schwedhelm
then told me that he would require a phone call from the mother
before telling me the name of the detective assigned to the case.
The mother immediately
made the call. According to the mother, when she made that call
to Sgt. Schwedhelm and requested that Women's Justice Center be
the advocate on the case, Sgt. Swedhelm told the mother that since
this was a child abuse case, they (the police) couldn't give out
any information on the case to Women's Justice Center. The mother
argued with Schwedhelm that since she was the girl's mother she
certainly had the right to say who was the advocate on the case
and who could have information on the case. According to the mother,
Sgt. Schwedhelm continued at length to try to convince the mother
that the detectives couldn't work with me, Marie De Santis or
Women's Justice Center.
the girl's mother related this conversation to me she was furious
with the treatment she received from Sgt. Swedhelm and SRPD, and
she was incensed that instead helping her daughter, SRPD was delivering
her family one insult after the other.
Marie De Santis, Director
cc: Santa Rosa City
Community Members (redacted)