Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Durham Police poster letter raises questions

Most of you know Alex Charns, attorney for one of the unindicted Duke lacrosse players, has requested documents and an investigation regarding the authorization, production and distribution of at least two Durham CrimeStoppers posters/flyers regarding the Duke lacrosse case.

Someone just coming on the story can go here and here for background.

After reading Durham Police Major Lee Russ’ letter responding to Charns’ email, I have a lot of questions about what Russ says.

Below is Russ' letter with some of my questions placed interlinear and in italics.

May 26,2006

Attorney Alex Charns
Charns & Charns Attorneys at Law
Post Office Box 59
Durham, NC 27702

Dear Attorney Charns:

I am in receipt of your email sent Thursday, May 18, 2006 to City Manager Patrick Baker and copied to Chief Steven Chalmers.

Pursuant to your request, enclosed are copies of all press releases produced by the City of Durham and the Durham Police Department concerning the crime alleged to have occurred at 610 N. Buchanan Boulevard on or about March 13, 2006.

[If I understood Charns right, he only got one document from Russ. The text of that document is here and identified as Document three.

I plan to contact Russ tomorrow, Thursday, to find out if he sent other CrimeStoppers documents. I’ll let you know what I learn.

It is our understanding that posters containing allegations by the accuser and photos of members of the Duke lacrosse team were distributed on Duke's campus by a source unknown to us.

[ Those may be what I’ve been calling the “vigilante poster,” a photo of which was published by The N&O, and a photo of which or of a very similar poster appears on the USA Today website.]

In addition, a solicitation for information was produced by the Durham Crimestoppers Coordinator.

[ The Coordinator’s name? Is the “Coordinator” Cpl. David Addison , the Durham Police officer assigned to work full-time with Crimestoppers? Cpl. Addison is listed as the CrimeStoppers contact on the poster and flyers about which Charns is concerned and which is referenced here as Document three.]

Crimestoppers is an independent nonprofit organization that offers cash awards for information leading to arrests in criminal activities alleged to have occurred.

[In that case, who is answering questions for Crimestoppers regarding decisions to produce and distribute what Russ calls a “solicitation of information?”

Russ speaks of “criminal activities alleged to have occurred.” But the “solicitation” speaks of crimes.

Who at Crimestoppers decided crimes of rape, sodomy, etc. had been committed at 610 N Buchanan on the night of Mar. 13/14? And how did they decide? Also, who authorized a cash award in the Duke lacrosse case?

I’ve called CrimeStoppers on four consecutive days, some days more than once, and never got anything but a VM message to leave a message or a referral to Cpl. Addison who didn’t return my calls.

I plan to ask Russ to help me talk to people at CrimeStoppers. My understanding from reading some CrimeStoppers’ minutes on the web is that it has a board of directors. which would make sense for an independent nonprofit organization which solicits funds from the public.]

When the solicitation for information was brought to the attention of the Police Department, given the degree of media coverage, questions, debates and community tensions already surrounding this matter, we felt that a less strongly worded request would he preferable.

[ By “we” I assume Russ means someone (s) acting on behalf of DPD. Who was that?

Has anyone at DPD said what it was in the original “solicitation” that DPD “felt (should be) less strongly worded?”

Again, questions for Russ.]

Therefore, I contacted the Crimestoppers Coordinator and the solicitation for information was immediately amended as evidenced by copies of the enclosed emails.

[ I’d like to find copies and share them with you. ]

We recently became aware that the originally drafted Crimestoppers' request for information was copied by a member of our agency using a Durham Police Department header.

[The “w” questions come to mind. Who? Where? When? Why?]

However, just as this issue was promptly addressed when it first came to our attention almost two months ago, appropriate actions will he taken by the Durham Police Department to ensure that information distributed by or associated with the Department is effective, accurate and sensitive to the community we serve.

[That’s all good to hear but I don’t see anything in Russ’ letter that really explains how Crimestoppers came to produce and distribute the “solicitation” DPD later came to feel should be “less strongly worded.”

Enough for now except for this: I'm told everything the Durham CrimeStoppers does is supposed to be public knowledge, including what the DPD do coordinating with CrimeStoppers.

If that's wrong someone let me know.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep you posted.


Major Lee Russ
Office of the Chief
cc: Patrick Baker, City Manager
Steven Chalmers, Chief of Police
Ronald Hodge, Deputy Chief of Police

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