The police officer leading Metro’s probe into allegations of abuse of the city’s Hispanics says the investigation may expand.
“At this point, our priority and our focus is on the allegations of abuse of Hispanics and on whether police officers were involved,” Police Capt. Steve Anderson said. “Once those issues are resolved, we will look at how we might address the other issues raised in the Scene.”
In late October, the Scene reported that guards for the private security firm Detection Services, which employed more than 40 moonlighting police officers, had beaten and robbed Hispanics at apartment complexes where the guards had been hired to provide security. (See Nashville Scene, “Above the Law,” Oct. 21, 1999.) The Scene also raised questions about whether the Police Department’s Internal Security unit, which investigates allegations of police corruption, had been compromised by its relationship with Detection Services. (See “Above the Law,” Oct. 28, 1999.) Two Internal Security officers were on Detection Services’ payroll, including Maj. Sam Sloss, who has run the unit since 1989.
Although Anderson was reluctant to discuss details, he said, “Issues in Internal Security will need to be addressed at some point.”
Meanwhile, investigators from both Anderson’s task force and the FBI continue to interview former Detection Services guards who may have witnessed the abuse of Hispanics. The FBI announced in early November that it had joined the Metro task force investigation to determine whether federal civil rights had been violated.
In a related matter, a Hispanic police officer, Juan Borges, was placed on temporary assignment to the task force. Anderson said Borges had been “very effective” in communicating with Hispanics and would continue to work with the task force as long as needed.
In other developments:
♦ The property manager responsible for overseeing the Ivy Wood apartment complex, where much of the abuse of Hispanics took place, has left her job. Suzanne DeNicola had worked for Continental Property Management, a real estate management firm that handled day-to-day operations at Ivy Wood. But a spokesperson for Continental Property said DeNicola left the firm “a few weeks ago.” DeNicola declined to return calls.
♦ The state Comptroller’s Office has launched an independent inquiry into allegations that complaints about Detection Services were mishandled by a state employee. The inquiry was launched at the request of Anne Pope, commissioner of the state Department of Commerce and Insurance. Beth Bell, formerly an employee in the Commerce Department’s private protective security guard program, has been “temporarily” assigned other duties within the department. The department regulates private security firms in Tennessee. Bell declined comment.
♦ The Metro Police Department announced in mid-November that a Spanish-language hot line had been created so that Hispanics in Nashville can confidentially report crimes. The telephone number, 862-7395, will be manned at police headquarters by a Spanish-speaking police officer. Police urged Hispanics to “report information concerning the ongoing investigation into the alleged abuses of Hispanic citizens by a private security company, or any other criminal matter.”
♦ ASAP, the controversial private security firm that held the lucrative contracts to provide police officers for off-duty work at the Adelphia Coliseum and at the downtown arena, suddenly shut down operations on Nov. 16. The company folded when ASAP failed to renew its insurance coverage, according to documents on file at the Commerce Department. This forced officials at the football stadium and the arena to scramble to find security for weekend games.
ASAP had been controlled by Sgt. Mark Garafola, who has been the target of several investigations related to his off-duty work. In early November, a Police Department internal investigation found that Garafola had “violated several department policies” related to his off-duty employment. Garafola has since been “disempowered as a police officer,” according to a Police Department press release.
♦ A slander lawsuit filed by Larry Lawson, the owner of Detection Services, against the owner of a local firm which trains security guards has been withdrawn. In the lawsuit, filed this year in Davidson County Chancery Court, Lawson alleged that Buford Tune had “maliciously” claimed that Lawson had allowed “his employees to engage in ‘shakedowns’ of tenants of properties with which he had private security contracts.”
♦ On Nov. 11, Police Chief Emmett Turner met with members of Nashville’s Hispanic community to improve communications. Turner, whose words were not translated for the audience, said, “We’re not perfect. We have a long way to go.... I’m not trying to make excuses for the incorrect actions of any police officers.” More than 100 people attended the meeting. Despite the police chief’s overtures to the Hispanics, some remained skeptical that Turner’s department will vigorously investigate the complaints.
♦ Congressman Bob Clement, in a statement, said, “Like many in Middle Tennessee, I have read and watched recent reports of alleged abuse of Hispanics at the Ivy Wood apartments with concern and disgust.... If these allegations prove to be true, it is simply unacceptable behavior, which should not be tolerated.”
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