The State Bureau of Investigation has officially refused to conduct a probe of the Henderson Police Department.
In a letter dated Nov. 16, Assistant SBI Director Melanie Thomas notified local District Attorney Sam Currin III that “the SBI respectfully declines your request for an administrative investigation.”
The SBI faxed a copy of the Henderson city government Feb. 15, the day after the Rev. C.J. Dale made an appearance before the City Council to present the latest in a series of complaints against local law enforcement in the past year. His Feb. 14 appearance featured Vincent Gregory, a Hillside Avenue resident who claimed that police officers investigating a shooting violated his home and harassed him, then charged him with assaulting them.
Dale said it was typical of the Police Department’s treatment of black men.
In the course of three such appearances last year, the first of which involved his own complaint about what he said was an improper traffic stop on Interstate 85, Dale received assurances that a request would be made to the SBI to investigate the Henderson department.
He complained Feb. 14 that no such inquiry was under way, nor had anything else been done to improve police treatment of minorities. “Unfortunately,” he said, “we’re back here again.”
Council member Bernard Alston responded that night that a referral was sent to the SBI, but no city official had heard anything further.
Because Currin made the request, he was likely to be the only one who would hear the response, City Attorney John Zollicoffer said.
Mayor Clem Seifert promised to call the SBI on the matter, although he said he doubted the state agency would tell him anything.
Instead, he got a copy of the 2-month-old letter sent to Currin.
The SBI letter offers no opinion on the validity of the complaints against Henderson officers. Thomas wrote that she conducted an initial review of the case, including a briefing from a retired special agent, Rick Sims.
Thomas concluded that the SBI could not launch an investigation because Currin’s request was for an “administrative review”; by law, she wrote, the SBI conducts only “criminal investigates where there is potential for prosecution.”
“The SBI does not conduct administrative reviews regarding allegations of excessive force, nor does the SBI administratively review the internal investigation process of a local agency,” Thomas wrote. “Again, this exceeds the scope of our legislative authority.”
Dale, the pastor Burning Bush Christian Church, attended the City Council meeting Monday night and spoke at the end of the public forum on the audit. He complained about how vigilant some people were in asking questions on financial issues but how silence ruled on other matters.
“When we bring certain things to y’all, like police brutality on some of the young African-American men, no one will ask questions,” Dale said.
The pastor did not speak during the regular meeting, and the SBI’s response to Currin’s request did not come up until the closing moments of the marathon session, long after Dale left.
During a phone conversation Wednesday night, Dale said he had heard about the SBI letter but had not seen it, so he was not prepared to respond to it.
Police Chief Glen Allen, who requested an SBI inquiry at the same time as Currin but did not receive a separate response, had nothing to say about the bureau’s decision. “I think the letter speaks for itself.”
He said his department has closed all of the cases cited in the SBI referral.