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SAPD Officer Accused of Rape Reflects Long Road to Department Reform

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Jackie Len Neal


While they can now be accompanied by someone (at the approval of the chairman of the advisory action board), the complainants are still not given a copy of their complaint and the aggravated perjury warning remains on formal complaint acceptance forms, said SAPD spokesperson Sandy Gutierrez.

The department, and Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh (who oversees SAPD), did not respond to further questions about the PERF recommendations and other efforts to reform SAPD’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

It’s not just the complaint process that has spurred criticism—there’s the perceived lack of action taken when alleged (albeit lesser) offenses occur. A 2011 Texas Civil Rights Project report concluded that, “SAPD suffers from a systemic lack of supervision and accountability that allows serious incidents of misconduct to arise.” Further, it found that while officers were ultimately indefinitely suspended and, in some cases, faced criminal charges, in most instances they were not first-time offenders. “Rather, it took an egregious incident to get SAPD’s attention,” the report noted. The authors proposed a heavier investment in early intervention systems–by taking proactive steps before an employee gets into serious trouble, at least, fewer citizens will be affected by his or her misconduct, they write.

“The Chief didn’t hold supervisors responsible for identifying early warning signals of officers that might have problems and hold them accountable,” said James Harrington, a human rights attorney and founder/director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, in an interview with the Current. While McManus says that the department took “prompt action” when the allegations arose, Harrington questions why Neal’s past activity didn’t merit increased scrutiny of the officer to begin with.

“When you see these characteristics, these signs of aggression—that might not be as serious, of course, as rape—they should still set off a signal, a flag that there is something wrong with this guy and you got to take him aside and work with him on this stuff or get rid of him … I mean, you don’t out of the clear blue sky go rape somebody.”

When Harrington learned of Neal’s alleged offense, he immediately drew a parallel with the case of Officer Craig Nash. In 2010, Nash allegedly handcuffed and transported a transgendered woman to a secluded area, where he then forced her to give him oral sex and raped her. While SAPD arrested Nash shortly thereafter, the officer exhibited similar early indicators well before the incident, said Harrington. In 2009 Harrington himself co-filed a complaint that Nash demonstrated “rough and inappropriate treatment” of a domestic-violence victim. The department failed to investigate the complaint.

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