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The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
November 6, 2002
Author: SARAH ANTONACCI STAFF WRITER
In an unprecedented release of what are usually highly secretive police proceedings, the city of Springfield Tuesday gave the news media hundreds of pages of documents and a videotape relating to three internal affairs investigations of former police officer Renatta Frazier.
Frazier was the topic of a special Springfield City Council meeting Monday because of revelations last week that the police department withheld information that could have corrected published reports that her actions on Halloween 2001 might have prevented a rape.
As it turned out, she was dispatched to the scene after the assault had already occurred.
Several aldermen on Monday pressed police administrators to explain why the misinformation was allowed to go unchallenged, and Mayor Karen Hasara – who last week suggested there were “other issues” relating to Frazier’s job performance – said she believes there is racism within the Springfield Police Department.
In all, the documents show, four formal complaints were filed against Frazier, a black, first-year officer who resigned Aug. 29 citing “stress, pressure, discrimination and other continuing acts of hostility” by her employer.
According to the documents, the following incidents were being investigated:
- That Frazier, in the most controversial case, was called to look into a complaint about four men pounding on the door of a woman’s apartment. Frazier never got out of her car to investigate, according to the woman, a police officer’s daughter who reported later that she had been raped.
- That while working off-duty last year at the Road Ranger, a gas station and convenience store on South Grand Avenue East, Frazier saw someone with a handgun in his waistband but neglected to call for uniformed officers.
- That Frazier approached and verbally assaulted a man after tail- gating him. The man said she got out of her white van at a stoplight and approached his car, screaming at him.
- That on April 30, 2001, while being evicted from her apartment in the 200 block of South Durkin Drive, she allegedly tried to prevent sheriff’s deputies from doing their jobs.
The documents indicate Police Chief John Harris recommended that Frazier get a five-day suspension for failing to perform her duty during the incident of Oct. 31, 2001. But he also recommended that she be fired for “insubordination” because of her behavior in her internal affairs interviews regarding the Road Ranger and tailgating incidents.
Frazier quit the force before the investigation of the eviction incident was completed.
Courtney Cox, Frazier’s attorney, said Tuesday that the idea of firing her because of her behavior during the internal affairs interviews is “sad” because Frazier’s doctor wrote a letter July 8 saying she was in no shape to be questioned in such a setting. The interviews were held July 10.
In a letter Cox sent the city, he said Frazier’s physician had diagnosed her as suffering from “depression with recent increase in symptoms.” She was taking a medication called Celexa.
“Renatta was medicated and was not thinking clearly,” Cox said. “I can attest to her very, very bad condition.”
At one point, Cox said, he and his secretary even considered calling an ambulance to the internal affairs office for Frazier.
“The sad thing is when you read the decision – the termination is because of what happened because of the IA interview,” he said.
“She should never have been in the interviews to begin with. They’re in there gloating and giving each other the ‘high five.’ They created the problem for which she was being treated.” Cox added, referring to a videotape of the interview, after which Assistant Chief Mitzi Vasconcelles and Lt. Mark Harms, both of the internal affairs division, slap each other’s hand.
In the videotape, Frazier appears to be confused and testy. She is reminded at one point by Vasconcelles that she could be subject to insubordination charges for her behavior. She responds that she’s not an officer because she doesn’t have a badge, a gun or a police ID.
William Workman, the attorney who handles police matters for the city, said Tuesday the city was under the impression that Frazier’s behavior during the interviews was “an act.”
The city included in the documents a letter from another local doctor saying that Frazier was able to handle the internal affairs interview process. That doctor’s assessment was made last spring.
Also included is a memo from Harms stating that Frazier showed up 12 days after the interviews and showed none of the confusion she exhibited the day of the interviews. She got into her own car to drive away, Harms’ memo said.
“I observed none of the unusual symptoms that she had exhibited at the interviews on July 10, 2002. I asked her to initial and date the form documenting that she had received the tapes and transcripts. She understood and complied after having it explained only once,” Harms wrote.
Cox said such claims are disturbing. “That makes me sick to my stomach that they would even say she was (faking it),” he said. “She was ill, and I was there with her.”
Ward 2 Ald. Frank McNeil, one of the three aldermen who requested Monday’s special council meeting, said he was under the impression that the documents released Tuesday were to be released only to him.
Cox agreed, saying, “We have not given permission for their release.”
Having viewed the tape, McNeil said he, too, thought Frazier was at a disadvantage during the internal affairs interviews because of her illness.
“I’m not justifying her not getting out of her vehicle (on Oct. 31, 2001), but it’s not an incident you fire someone over,” he said. “Discipline is supposed to be progressive and corrective. This was an incident, and the correct way was to tell her how to do it the right way and give her a warning. I’m just so taken aback by this whole thing.”
Record Number: 0000551682
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