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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Monroe's Reality: "First 48" and More?

Maybe citynewswatch should have been titled “Here We Go Again.”
One of two things is true: 
Either Mayor Foxx and the Charlotte City Council are allowing City Manager Curt Walton and CMPD Police Chief Rodney Monroe run amok to encumber Charlotte in whatever is their will
 without oversight
They are all fully informed and condone the actions.
Here is another example:
For two-and-a-half months, CMPD Attorneys have delayed release of documents requested in connection with police shows contracted on behalf of the City of Charlotte.  Mayor Foxx and the Council have been informed of all of this.  Initially, emails forwarded to citynewswatch showed a request to send all correspondence and documents related to the police show First 48 and the related production company.
Attorneys tried to limit the response, and it seems they still won’t give the information.  When some scant documents were sent, they included a Police Department Attorney deferring to the production company before releasing Charlotte’s public information, attempts to limit release, and a total refusal to answer questions about who is profiting—and who might be at increased risk from the shooting of this show in Charlotte.
We should not be in the position of deferring to a television production company.  Wasn’t the expensive lawsuit over footage in a murder investigation enough to cause reconsideration?  Is this current position due to ongoing negotiations for more television shows?  Read on for more on that topic.

He also indicates that there may be a contention by the City of other emails which are not public record.  However, the law requires disclosure of a statutory reason for denial of release of any such records.  There is no allowance for acting as if records don’t exist if that’s what may be occurring.  Again, more information to follow.
Consider what happened when there was a lawsuit filed by attorneys for a murder suspect featured in the show:  even Monroe testified.  Many hours of police time, multiple attorneys from the CMPD attorney’s office and the Meck. Co, DA’s office, court officer’s time, judge’s time, and more were spent because of a lawsuit to determine whether the CMDP was in charge or the production company was in charge. 
The determination of all of this was at taxpayer expense. 

Duties of Mayor and City Council
Together the Mayor and City Council Members are responsible for establishing the general policies under which the City operates. These include:
Appointing the City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk and members of various Boards and Commissions enacting ordinances, resolutions and orders
- Reviewing the annual budget, setting the tax rate and approving the financing of all City operations
Authorizing contracts on behalf of the City

However, you can read the response from Head CMPD Attorney Mark Newbold stating that not only did the Mayor and Council allegedly not authorize this contract, but even City Manager Curt Walton had absolutely NOTHING to do with it.  Just Newbold helped the Production Company draft the contract, and Monroe signed it, obligating the City, Citizens and CMPD officers to live with the consequences. 
Maybe this is part of the reason the City’s budget required a 25% increase in insurance rates for the Police Department due to “increased liability” issues (or maybe it’s also related to Marcus Jackson and similar issues).  Or the answer from Newbold is incorrect.  Whatever the reason for the substantial increase, it’s a problem.
Though they would not answer many questions, CMPD’s Freiman advised:
Mr. Newbold said that Chief Monroe is authorized to sign this type of contract.  The contract was draft(ed) by both the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the company which produces “The First 48.”  Mr. Newbold assisted in drafting the contract.  And he reviewed it prior to Chief Monroe signing the contract.
Who is profiting from these shows? 
Maybe that’s why they won’t answer any questions now.  But they are knowingly allowing him to negotiate and enter in to more contracts for First 48 to continue, and maybe to do a “reality” forensics show, and who knows what else?   Is there any element of personal benefit, and if so for whom?
Here are questions posed after months of delays:
Are there any monies being collected, directly or indirectly, by the municipality, its departments or any individuals, or anyone related to same--whether personally or professionally--as a result of association with the production company of the referenced television show?  If so, please provide details.

No answer.

Documents Missing?  Documents Withheld?
Or Did the Entire Leadership of Charlotte Never Write Anything Down about this Huge Liability?

When, upon receipt of a first round of scant documents and the contract, this single email above from Rodney Monroe was included, these questions were forwarded to CMPD Attorneys:
The other issue I have is that I find it shocking that there was only one (1) communication from Rodney Monroe in this entire file you sent which is intended to be all-encompassing.  Can you explain that?  Is it possible something has been left out?  There are no letters that I can locate included, nor faxes.  Are those in a separate file?  It just struck me as odd, since he is the leader of the department, and of the effort to have this show, and of course he signed the contract obligating the CMPD and the City its employees to do the show.
The answer given was that there is almost inexplicably not one other piece of correspondence to or from Rodney Monroe or on his behalf except this note above and the contract he signed.  Hmm.

Who is at greater risk?
Monroe’s/Newbold’s contract signs away extra rights of officers, and the city with no prior approval or even information, and it seems they may be actively in the process of doing it again—not just with another year of FIRST 48, but with more shows.  There is indication in writing of other possible reality shows.  Read on below for indications of another show with a CMPD connection as well.
The contract they signed before binds away the rights of police officers even when they are off duty, and in perpetuity.  Do officers even know this?  Did they agree in advance? 

See the full contract here.

Here’s an email sent by one Officer with the integrity to speak truth to power upon announcement of the First 48 show, but citynewswatch has removed the name because of allegations of retaliation for such proper behavior within CMPD:

There was no response.

Consider how Officers in Dekalb County, Georgia feel about the show in their town by reading their blog story here.  The header for says DEKALB OFFICERS SPEAK: This blog page was established so Dekalb county police officers including their family and friends may have a place to hold discussions, post news and vent without fear of retribution.
There is a similar site in Charlotte, NC at and of course comments and more tips can be sent to here to citynewswatch as well.  There are other sites locally that officers use informally to share information and opinions of the state of the CMPD and issues that come up.

At least one CMPD officer seems to be a particular fan.  There are probably more.  With her astounding rise to the top of CMPD’s ranks, many things are working well for Vicki Foster, but she articulated this one with excitement. 
A Law Enforcement training expert wrote this letter below to Chief Monroe after viewing an episode of First 48, but apparently (at least in writing), his staff did their best to shield Monroe from any liability of being informed by saying they had not told him about what seems to be a serious and potentially lethal safety concern, possibly influenced by cameras on the scene.  These are some of the same fiercely loyal personnel who seem to have received jobs that were never posted or even documented under established rules, and who have been promoted at lightning speed through—and around—the ranks of the CMPD.
Here is the content of the letter, with the writer’s name removed:

The signature contains the letters ACFE, ASIS after the writer’s name.  This is not just “concerned citizen,” but maybe this type of written coverage for the Chief is part of the reason for his staunch support of particular employees—or vice versa.  This writer CLEARLY intended this letter to reach Chief Monroe, and as it seems obvious he must have contacted someone at CMPD to get the correct e-mail address for Darrellyn Kiser in order to accomplish that (possibly directly from her)—as he surely didn’t know that e-mail address better than Chief Monroe’s.
Generally, this disturbing apparent practice of protecting Chief Monroe from receiving certain WRITTEN communications by using subordinates to do so must absolutely not be accepted.  If this has been the purpose of installing extra layers of command staff that did not exist in CMPD Directives, then it must be added to the list of practices reviewed and changed by HR, Internal Affairs, City Manager Curt Walton, Mayor Foxx, City Council, and possibly others.  Even using regularly installed “brass” or assistants to accomplish this is unacceptable from the commander of our police force.
Here are responses from Chief Monroe’s close-kept staff.  Note that they say the letter is from referred a “Citizen Concern” rather than from a highly-trained, highly-certified, expert Law Enforcement Officer.  Also note there is no indication of any follow up with officers concerning the incident.  The episode has been unavailable for viewing on A&E on line.

Certainly evidence had been presented directly to the Mayor and Chief of Vicki Foster’s exploits and her efforts to present an “AMERICAN BODYGUARD” reality television show to the production company for herself and her friend with the same home address Melvin Key (at least, their home and their registered business addresses are both the same.)   Certainly having a high-ranking officer in the department helping gain access for one show might be a plus if you are trying to sell another one.  See one promotional video clip featuring Melvin Key:
Ms. Foster had a promo video on Youtube at one time, but after citizens were so disturbed by the content of a high-ranking police officer apparently saying that she would only help Christians that it became known at the Mayor’s office, the video was taken down.  However, according to discipline reports distributed by CMPD (and her amazing career climb) there was no reprimand, discipline, demotion, or firing, for such conduct by a high-ranking officer at CMPD.  And having a security company on the side (MVP Security, which she was promoting) without prior approval of the Chief of Police would be a violation of CMPD Directives as well.  Mayor Foxx’s response was that it “was a private matter” that the Chief would handle.  What?
Why wouldn’t the Mayor insist to see the video, and even require seeing it in its uncut form, as the writer suggested?  Why wouldn’t he at least be concerned enough to insist that Walton or Monroe do the same?
That means that Monroe approved her whole company and approved of her allegedly-stated-I-will-only-help-you-if-you’re-a-Christian philosophy, no matter what oath sworn officers are to uphold.  It couldn’t have been too much of a problem, because Ms. Foster has enjoyed a very fast rise to her current position and salary. 
The City can check the Secretary of State website, as can anyone and verify the involvement of Vicki Foster and Melvin Key:

MVP continues to update their website, though there is not ONE name appearing anywhere, except Melvin Key.  Citynewswatch suggests checking any potential contracts for DNC2012 security directed toward MVP or their other company, Ambassador Security and Patrol to be sure there are no conflicts.  There is also a security guard training company associated. 
City Manager Curt Walton will investigate none of this.  HR representatives have refused as well.  This is no way to run a healthy police department or City.  It seems that no matter how much of this or similar information regarding any personnel matter is brought to the attention to the HR department, City Manager Curt Walton, City Council Members, or Mayor Foxx, they choose to ignore it.

Does ‘Show Hype’ Cause Potential Harm in Itself?
A First 48 shoot in Detroit had horrific consequences.  A S.W.A.T. Team Raid that would make ‘good t.v.’ resulted in the death of an innocent 7-year-old who lived in a different address than the warrant which the team may not have even had until after they threw a flash bang device (very dramatic on camera) through the child’s window, landing on her and the couch where she had been asleep.  It’s unclear whether the fire or the bullet that sprayed into her home killed her, but Aiyana Jones is still dead. 
The suspect the team was after at a nearby address went with officers with no resistance.  A S.W.A.T. Team and often lethal flash bang devices really weren’t necessary for the conditions of the warrant they wanted to serve—unless you needed an exciting shot for your A&E network show.
There are lawsuits filed against the Production Company as well as the City and Police Officers, in their individual capacities and as employees.  See one of the suits in its entirety and note that it points out the following items, among others:
“The Detroit Police Special Response Team launched a commando-style raid upon Aiyana’s home, starting with firing a flash-bang grenade from a gun through the front window into a room where Aiyana was sleeping on a couch... The grenade exploded near Aiyana…  Police then fired into the lower duplex from the outside and struck seven-year-old Aiyana in her head, piercing her skull…  Prior to the decision to illegally assault Aiyana’s home, there were discussions about the fact that television cameras would be present and the desire to create a “good show” and/or to create “great video footage.”  Since this horrific incident, and because of the unfortunate consequences associated with allowing Defendants (and other reality television shows) to participate in police work, the mayor of Detroit has banned reality television crews from working with police so that similar horrific incidents will not be repeated upon other innocent citizens of Detroit.”

This is extracted from an excellent article on the subject by Megan Matteucci of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, another location that First 48 shoots:
“This is an opportunity to showcase the best practices of policing. We thought it was a good thing for the department,” CEO Burrell Ellis told the AJC. “I’m not aware of any negative reasons it would impact economic development. Overall, we think we have a good story to tell in DeKalb.”
But county commissioners see that story as one of violent shootings, stabbings and other brutal crimes that could steer businesses, tourists and conventions elsewhere.
“Think about the cities that have been highlighted. I don’t want to be compared to Detroit and Memphis,” May said. “I get what the chief is saying about highlighting the great work our police do, but I think there are other ways to do that.”
Memphis canceled its contract with “The First 48” in 2008 after image and legal concerns arose about the show highlighting a brutal murder where a man killed his brother and five children. At the time, the police chief said he worried that the show’s crew had jeopardized evidence at the crime scene.
Under the contract, the show’s cameras get more access than news media.
“The police director decided not to renew the contract based on concerns about how the city was perceived by people outside the city,” said Mary Cashiola, spokeswoman for the Memphis mayor. “We’re showing all these murders and the concern was we weren’t getting anything in return.”
Like Memphis, DeKalb does not receive compensation, but “The First 48” has agreed to make a recruiting video and public service announcement for the police.
The Detroit mayor also canceled his city’s contract with the show last year after Detroit police killed a 7-year-old girl during a raid being filmed by “The First 48.”
“It didn’t go well. A little girl died and the mayor’s office stopped the show,” Detroit police spokesman Samuel Balogun told the AJC. “Sometimes it’s good for people to see what we do. This time, the city didn’t think so.”
A lawyer for the girl’s family has accused the officers of “thinking more about making good television rather than executing a search warrant with concern about the safety of officers and citizens,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
You will also want to read this excellent analysis by Radley Balko of Reason Magazine, and the the Huffington Post Crime section.  As he says, there is good reason to examine the responsibility of politicians to set and oversee policies and actions of the police.  He also examines the circumstances that had the S.W.A.T. Team rushing in with no warrant ahead of time, and more.

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