Reader Request Monday: FSPD Edition

It appears that Blue Hog Report has some fans among the rank-and-file of the Fort Smith Police Department.

In fact, some of them are such dedicated readers that they write in with suggestions for a post.  For example, Sgt. Daniel Grubbs, who handles the FSPD’s FOIA requests in an amazingly nescient manner, wrote this on Friday:

grubby

Now, a couple of things.  First, context: After receiving the probable-cause affidavit featured in the previous post, I sent a FOIA request to Sgt. Grubbs, asking for the arrest report related to that handjob-tastic affidavit.  When I received the arrest report, I noticed that part of the evidence listed therein was a recording of the officer’s interaction with the suspected prostitute, so I requested that as a follow-up.  Sgt. Grubbs emailed me at 11:37am on Friday to let me know that a CD with the recording was available at the front desk.  Then, 11 minutes later, he sent the email above, which I can only assume is proof positive that he’s (a) a fan, (b) he’s speaking on behalf the FSPD (since he sent the email from his FSPD account), and  (c) he doesn’t want me to drop this story, despite my stated intentions at the end of the last post.

So, to whatever extent this post might entertain or offend you, you should email Sgt. Grubbs at [email protected] to let him know.

ANYWAY…Sgt. Grubbs’ assertion seems to be that the arrest narrative and the recording of the officer’s interaction with a suspected prostitute somehow makes the officer look better in the grand scheme of things.  Except, well…”better” can be highly subjective, so we should probably take a look at these things more closely before we draw any conclusions.  Here is the arrest report, and here is a link to the recording of their interaction.  Let’s examine them side-by-side.

The short narrative on page 3 of the arrest report reads:

On 04/22/14 the Street Crimes Unit was working an undercover operation that was targeting prostitution at the Seasons Inn, 2219 S. Waldron Rd..  An undercover officer had made contact with the suspect on the website Backpage, who had posted an ad in the escort section.  The suspect, XXXX XXXXX agreed to exchange sex for money at a local hotel.  XXXXX was placed under arrest after the exchange of money and charged with Prostitution 2nd Offense.

That sounds pretty much how you would expect a prostitution sting to go, right?  But the longer narrative, where the officer explained what happened isn’t near so neat and tidy.  Nor does it match the recording, at least not where it matters.

Upon speaking to the suspect on the phone, she told me she would be on the south side of Fort Smith at an apartment near Planters Peanuts. However, in my subsequent conversation with her, she told me there was a change of plans and that she was getting a room at the Seasons Inn and asked that I meet her there. During our conversation, she asked where I worked and if I was with the police. I told her I was employed by Schlumberger, so she asked if that was the “blue one or the red one.” I told her it was the blue one and she said ok.

Allegedly, at least according to the report, these conversations were recorded.  Sgt. Grubbs failed to provide them to me, however.  I can only assume it was an oversight.  C’est la vie.

After the suspect provided the room number to me, I advised my cover team that I was going to her room. Upon arrival, I exited my vehicle and knocked on the door of room 125. A short time later, a white female, later identified as XXXXXXXX, opened the door and invited me inside. Once inside, I asked the suspect if I could use the restroom to wash my hands. She said I could and actually brought me some body wash to use because my hands were very dirty. After washing my hands, I emerged from the restroom and began a conversation with her. She seemed to still be suspicious of me and began asking me questions about where I worked. I fabricated a story about working for a oil and gas company and she seemed to believe me. I then told her I didn’t have much time and asked how she wanted to do “this”.

Yeah…no.  In the recording, the officer does not give a wink-wink-nudge tone to “this.”  Rather, after spending time talking about his pretend job and complimenting the alleged hooker on flower tattoo (“tattoos are sexy,” says the retail Casanova), he simply says that he doesn’t have a lot of time and asks how she wants to do this, minus any inflection on the “this.”

She then asked me to “get comfortable”, which is a phrase commonly used by prostitutes when asking Johns to get naked. This is done usually to “prove” they’re not a cop, so I began disrobing. As I was taking my pants off, I looked at Ms. XXXXX and asked if she was going to get comfortable as well, so she took her shirt off.

Again, context is everything here.  The real exchange is

Officer:  “Tattoos are sexy. [pause] Well, I don’t have much time. How do you wanna do this?”

Woman: “Um…you can get comfortable, I guess.”

Officer: “Ok.” [/gets naked, makes a minute of small talk] “You gonna get comfortable, or am I gonna be the only one gettin’ comfortable? Kinda make me nervous there, watchin’ me like that.”

Woman: “Well I was just makin’ sure; you get butt naked for me, we’re good.”

Officer: “Well, I kinda figured that, since we’re doin’ a full-body massage, right?”

Woman: “Yeah.” [pause] “And I had a baby not too long ago so I’m [inaudible]…”

Officer: “Shut up. You look good.”

After I had disrobed, she asked me to lie down on the bed. I asked if she wanted me to lay on my stomach or my back and she told me either would be fine. So, since her ad had stated she gave the “best massage”, I chose to lie on my stomach so she would need to ask me to turn over if, in fact, there would be any sex involved with her massage.

Omitted from this narrative?  The part right about here where the woman asks if the officer has the money and he confirms that $160 for a half hour is the deal.

Now, I am not a police officer, but I have done criminal-defense work in various forms for years, and I am well aware that, under Arkansas law, “A person commits prostitution if in return for or in expectation of a fee he or she engages in or agrees or offers to engage in sexual activity with any other person” (emphasis added).  So, there are three scenarios in which a person could be guilty of prostitution under this definition — where a person engages in sexual activity for money, where she agrees to engage in sexual activity for money, or where she offers to engage in sexual activity for money.  Here, we’ve just had the exchange of money; accordingly, if the officer felt that there had been an agreement to, or offer of, sexual acts for money, the crime was immediately complete, and he could have arrested her at this point.

Instead, the interaction continued, which tells us either (a) that he wanted it to continue or (b) that he thought getting naked, paying $160 for a massage, and hoping she touches the lil’ sergeant were steps 1-3 of a proper prostitution bust.

She immediately began rubbing my back very gently, but not in a manner I would associate with a  traditional massage. I then asked if she had any massage oil and she said no, but she usually has some. Then, she went into the restroom and retrieved a bottle of Green brand body lotion and began rubbing that on my back. A very short time later, she asked if I wanted her to “do my front” so I turned over.

This whole part, from asking about the massage oil until she asks him if he wants her to “do the front” (to which he says, “of course I want you to do the front!”), takes nearly 3 minutes.  Which might not sound like much, until you realize that the entire interaction to that point had taken just over 9 minutes.  I only mention that because, to read the narrative, you might assume that she found a bottle of lotion, came back, and asked him to roll over, all in the span of a few seconds.  Instead, this portion of the audio lasts long enough that the two literally talk about how many kids each of them has, which is an uncomfortable to listen to as you might imagine it to be.

When I turned over, I noticed she had placed a Trojan Ecstacy [sic] condom on the bed next to her. Then, she began rubbing on my chest and worked her way down to my hips. Then, without warning, she began fondling my penis. Then, she stopped, applied more lotion to her hands and asked if I would mind if she put some lotion on it. When I said no, she began masturbating me so I immediately grabbed her hand and identified myself as a police officer. I then told her she was under arrest and began putting my clothes back on. At that point, my cover team arrived at the doors to the room and were allowed inside to complete the arrest and paperwork.

Per the audio, after an uncomfortably long silence, punctuated only with some grunts from the officer, she asks “do you mind if I put lotion on it?”  He says, “Nah, that’s fine; I was kinda hopin’ you’d get around that area.”  She giggles and 25 seconds then elapse before he clears his throat, asks her real name, and tells her she’s under arrest.  So, forgive me if I doubt the “immediately grabbed her hand” part of the tale.

So…what’s my point in recounting all this?  Well, first, it is to ask in what world the procedure followed by the officer is a sound strategy for making what is ultimately a misdemeanor arrest?  You have a police officer, naked, face down on a bed in a hotel room, assuming that everything will go to plan and the suspect will go so far as to engage in sexual activity rather than, say, harm him or even have someone waiting in a closet ready to harm him at that point.

Second, however, my point is to illustrate the complete lack of leadership and accountability in some areas of the FSPD.  The officer involved in this arrest works directly under Sgt. Chris Harris, who heads up the Street Crimes Unit.  But it’s the story of how Harris wound up in that position that is really illustrative of the crisis of leadership at the FSPD.

Back in 2007, Harris was a sergeant working undercover in Narcotics [Ed. correction: Harris apparently worked in Property Crimes, not Narcotics.]  He also had a penchant for a suspected prostitute in the area, and he kept parking his car — whether it was his undercover vehicle or a police cruiser is unclear, but, either way, it was a city car — at her house for extended periods of time.  Eventually, word of this got back to the PD, and Harris was asked about it.  He apparently denied that he was doing anything wrong, but he was still told, unequivocally, not to do it anymore.

Shortly thereafter, he was caught having sex on duty with that same suspected prostitute, and he was suspended for three days in early June 2007.  He also lost the sweet solo gig that he had in Narcotics and was shipped back to Patrol, presumably so he would not be able to sneak around and keep doing what he had been told not to do.

And that’s where Harris stayed until November 2013. Six-plus years, he toiled in Patrol, the posterchild for disgruntled officers everywhere. He proclaimed that the duties of a Patrol sergeant were “beneath” him and that a trained monkey could do it. When the PD changed from the old FTO program for training new officers to the new PTO program in early 2011, Harris proclaimed to anyone who would listen that the new program was a “complete f*@king waste of time.”

What I’m saying is, he was not a happy camper in Patrol. Because delusions of grandeur and the desire to sneak around with suspected prostitutes can kind of cloud a person’s ability to do a job they don’t want to do, I guess.

Flash forward to late 2012/early 2013. Still a sergeant in Patrol, because he was literally persona non grata everywhere else, Harris was in a position to determine whether then-probationary officer Addisen Entmeier was progressing properly in his PTO training program. (Full disclosure: Addisen Entmeier is my client.) Presented with Entmeier’s training records and reports from Officers Honeycutt and Thompson, Harris signed off on Entmeier as good to go and ready to work without supervision. That was roughly January 2013.

In June 2013, however, when Capt. Alan Haney decided that he wanted someone to help him get revenge against Entmeier (because Entmeier, in a departmental investigation, correctly noted that Haney’s wife had been improperly claiming overtime and seemed to be keeping staffing low so she could do it), Haney and then-Maj. Chris Boyd called in Sgt. Harris. I assume the conversation went something like this:

Haney: We want you to ride with Addisen Entmeier and give us reason to fire him before he gets to the one-year mark.

Harris: Why? I already signed off on him.

Haney: Because I hate him.

Boyd: And because we’ll reward you for doing it.

Harris: Reward? Like…get me out of Patrol?

Boyd: Yep.

Harris: DONE AND DONE!

[/end scene]

Following this (totally hypothetical, but based in some amount of reality) meeting, Harris rode with Entmeier for a few days in June 2013, ostensibly as an “unbiased” observer of Entmeier. Of course, as Det. Greg Smithson admitted at a Civil Service hearing in December 2013, there hadn’t been a similar ride-along done during a probationary officer’s training in nearly two decades (see page 50 here).

Moreover, once the ride-along was done, Harris emailed Maj. Boyd and Capt. Haney, stating

I have completed my evaluation on Entmeier. I will complete my report and submit it when I get back to work tomorrow. It will basically mirror your assessment of him.

That Harris would have known Haney and Boyd’s assessment of Entmeier prior to completing what was supposed to be an unbiased review of Entmeier’s training is problematic at best, of course.

This email was sent on July 1, 2013.  Entmeier was terminated on July 5.

At this point, Sgt. Harris had spent six lackluster years in Patrol following his demotion in June 2007.  Yet, within three months of riding with Entmeier and writing up a report that would allow the FSPD to fire the probationary officer — despite Harris’s having signed off on the rookie’s training months earlier — Sgt. Danny Baker was moved from Street Crimes and Harris was given that Street Crimes slot.  In fact, and in total violation of FSPD Policy & Procedure 1101.20 (II)(D), Harris was given that specialized position without the position being advertised to other sergeants within the agency who might want to apply for it.

Now, it is bad enough to think that someone would be rewarded with a specialized position simply for helping some high-ranking officers exact petty revenge against a rookie officer.  That alone should make everyone uncomfortable.

But when the specialized position is overseeing Street Crimes, where a large part of the job is “proactively investigating crimes such as Prostitution, Patronizing Prostitutes, and Loitering for sexual activity in City parks,” perhaps that position should not be given as a reward to a sergeant who literally lost his last specialized position because of sex on duty with a suspected prostitute.  I dunno.  Maybe I’m crazy, but, to me, that seems like putting a recovering heroin addict in charge of inventorying the seized drug evidence; maybe it works out, but the chance of that happening does not justify the risk that it entails.

I also have my doubts that, prior to Harris’s taking over the Street Crimes role, officers were getting completely naked with suspected prostitutes and laying face down in a hotel room, hoping everything worked out as planned.  Since Sgt. Grubbs was so gung-ho about a follow-up post on this issues, however, I’ve sent him a FOIA request for the arrest reports for all prostitution arrests from November 1, 2011, to present.  That should give us a pretty clear picture of how things have changed under Harris, I would imagine.

Ah…but this isn’t only about Harris, is it?  Unlike most things, where stuff only rolls downhill, this steaming pile defies gravity and rolls right up to the foot of Chief Kevin “Sex Scandals Have Been A Thing Since I Got Here” Lindsey.  After all, it is Lindsey who had the final say in whether to terminate Entmeier.  It is Lindsey who ultimately had to approve Harris’s move into Street Crimes (and it was Lindsey who disciplined Harris in 2007 and approved his transfer to Patrol at the time).  In short, it is Lindsey’s leadership — or, more accurately, complete lack of leadership at every conceivable turn — that creates the kind of culture where this whole mess can fester and grow.  Whether it is because Lindsey is afraid to stand up to some of the long-serving command staff or simply because Lindsey has no interest in actually knowing what is going on at the street level in his agency, someone like Harris can go from being punished for frequenting an alleged prostitute while on duty to overseeing the unit that handles prostitution, all based on Harris’s willingness to be a team player when a captain or a major asks him to do something outside of policy and outside of common practice.

Here’s the real issue, though, and the main reason that I care enough to continue writing about the FSPD: well over 90% of the 160+ sworn officers of the FSPD are good police.  They come to work, they do their jobs proudly and properly, and they deserve not only your gratitude, but your respect for what they do for the city and the community.  The problem is, there are those other officers who aren’t part of the 90%+, who treat their position within the FSPD as something they are entitled to keep, and they circumvent policies, rules, and procedures in order to silence dissent and remove anyone who might dare challenge their nefarious behavior.  Unfortunately, the majority of these bad apples are in leadership positions within the agency, and, accordingly, they generally have the clout and ability to effectuate their plans and achieve their desired goals.

The only way to combat that kind of scenario — the ONLY way — is to have a Chief of Police with the moral backbone and intestinal fortitude to actually be a leader, to stand up to the “the way things work around here,” and to take strong actions to correct improper behavior when it is needed.

Instead, you have Kevin Lindsey, proving day after day that Edmund Burke was correct when he wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I want to end this post with some questions for City Administrator Ray Gosack, in the hopes that the questions will cause some soul-searching within city government as it relates to the FSPD:

1. Do you think that Sgt. Grubbs sent the email above with the full consent and knowledge of the Chief of Police?  If so, what does it say about the Chief that he would look at the arrest report, believe that a follow-up post would be a good idea for the FSPD, and allow Grubbs to send it from his departmental email?  If not, what does it say about the Chief that he has so little control over his agency that a sergeant responsible for public communications on behalf of the agency is going off-script and requesting what ultimately turn into the post above?

2. What are the odds that the incident outlined above was the only time that an officer working for Street Crimes under Sgt. Harris engaged in such risky, dangerous, and improper behavior during a bust?  What does it say about the Chief that he either didn’t know this was going on or knew and didn’t see anything wrong with this behavior?

3. Knowing all of the above, would it surprise you in the least to learn that, despite a rule that mandates that policies and procedures be followed, Chief Lindsey has said on multiple occasions that policies are just guidelines that he is free to ignore when he chooses to?  Is that the kind of arbitrary enforcement that you would expect from the man in charge of hundreds of police and civilian employees?

4. If the current environment in Street Crimes is allowed to continue, and the regrettably foreseeable outcome happens, where an officer is injured or killed after placing himself in such a vulnerable position, how is it going to look when people realize that you were informed of this whole thing by August 4, 2014, at the very latest and that Chief Lindsey sat back and did nothing that would demonstrate an ability to correct this or any other systemic problem within the FSPD?  What will you tell that officer’s family?

Or, in a less-nefarious sense, what if she’d just given him a topless massage for the $160?  Then the FSPD (read: the taxpayers) are out $160 due to the officer’s inability to simply ask what he gets for his money on the front end.  Brilliant.
What’s that?  Getting a prostitute off of backpage.com and meeting her in a hotel is hardly a “street crime”?  I don’t disagree.
Basically, all the cops knew she was a prostitute, but she never got convicted for it.
FSPD Logic: Sex on duty with a prostitute? 3 days. Make a statement to Professional Standards at the behest of the Chief? 5 days.
Which completely explains any success that Sgt. Dewey Young has had.
Harris left Narcotics with a specific, hilarious nickname based on his apparent penchant for alleged whores. I won’t mention it here, but…just trust me. It’s funny.
The decision to terminate was actually made and signed by Lindsey on July 3, but they held off telling the rookie until July 5 so that they could make him work the July 4 overnight shift — one of the highest call-volume nights of the year.  If he was really so inept, have him work alone on such a busy makes no sense.
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