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Corruption will be dealt with, TPD interim chief says

Tulsa World,
BYLINE: OMER GILLHAM, World Staff Writer
Link to Article

Tulsa, OK

Grand jury investigates police corruption: Read all of the stories, view a timeline and read key documents.

Interim Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said his office will aggressively address the issues raised by a corruption probe that began almost two years ago and has resulted in police officers being accused of various crimes and admitting to certain crimes.

Meanwhile, several Tulsa police officers are cooperating with U.S. Attorney Jane W. Duke, a special prosecutor leading a grand jury investigating falsified search warrants, nonexistent informants and stolen drugs and money by Tulsa police officers and a federal agent, records show.

One officer, Eric Hill, has received prosecutorial immunity from Duke's office, said a source who asked to remain anonymous.

Hill, 32, and two former police officers have admitted stealing about $10,000 in drug money during a January 2008 raid involving Hugo Alberto Gutierrez, records filed in U.S. District Court show. The former officers admitting they shared in the stolen money are Callison Kaiser, 29, and John K. Gray, 44. A fourth officer, Harold R. Wells, 59, has been accused of also sharing in the stolen money, records show.

Gray and Wells retired from the department in May. Hill was suspended with pay Tuesday by Tulsa police.

In addressing the allegations of corruption, Jordan said he can only talk in a limited way about corrective actions currently taking place or which could take place. He said the Police Department will address the issues at an appropriate time.

"The grand jury is not complete so we do not know all the facts nor do we know how this will all turn out," Jordan said.

"However, when this investigation is over, the TPD will aggressively initiate an audit of policy and procedures and will carry out corrective measures to preclude anything like this from happening again.

"The department has good policies in place now but unfortunately you cannot always predict behavior or if someone will turn toward improper actions," Jordan said.

Jordan allowed the World to review policies and procedures that detail how officers register confidential informants and properly handle seized drug money.

However, several defense attorneys interviewed by the World believe that the Tulsa Police Department has a systemic problem of corruption and has at times looked the other way when officers are involved in misconduct.

"For years there have been little or no checks by the system when it comes to the honesty of police officers," said attorney Kevin Adams.

"Some officers lie so often that defense lawyers are surprised when they don't. And nobody seems to care because they are trying to help the system get the 'bad guys.' These officers do not understand that if you are willing to abuse our trust by lying and committing perjury to get who you think is the 'bad guy' then you yourself are the bad guy."

Adams said he represents various clients arrested by officers who are the focus of the grand jury investigation. He is seeking to have their convictions reviewed or overturned.

Defense attorney Wes Johnson said police procedures must be implemented diligently to prevent behavior that is being investigated by Duke's office.

"In my 33 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, it is my experience that 99 percent of officers in this community are good and honest officers who would not cheat or lie or steal if their lives depended on it," Johnson said "But there has to be accountability from the bottom up and the top down."

One of Johnson's clients, Bobby Wayne Haley Sr., was wrongfully imprisoned. He was freed May 21 after serving four years of a 22-year sentence in federal prison, court records show. Haley was released as part of the grand jury investigation. An informant in his case said she lied on the witness stand after being told by two police officers to give false testimony in the Haley case, records show.

Tulsa County District Court judges interviewed by the World said that the use of confidential informants and the development of search warrants rests largely on the honesty and integrity of the police officer involved.

Special District Judge David Youll said he is disappointed at the behavior of the officers who have pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy and theft or who have admitted falsifying search warrants.

"Their actions go to the heart of the system and how it works," Youll said. "I feel let down because I know some of these officers and I have signed documents for them. It makes me wonder if I have signed something by an officer that has not been truthful."

In addition to admitting that he stole money during the Gutierrez bust, Gray has pleaded guilty to stealing about $2,000 in drug money during an FBI drug sting in May 2009, federal court records show. The sting also implicated officers Nick DeBruin, 37, Bruce Bonham, 52, and Wells as stealing money, records show.

Gray is cooperating with Duke's office while he awaits sentencing.

So far in the grand jury investigation, the names of eight Tulsa police officers and one former federal agent have surfaced in the corruption probe. Eleven people have been freed from prison or have had their felony convictions or drug charges eliminated as part of the grand jury investigation, a Tulsa World investigation shows.

Brandon McFadden, 33, a former agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, pleaded guilty May 6 in federal court to drug conspiracy and is cooperating with Duke's office while he awaits sentencing.

District Attorney Tim Harris said Tulsa police officers are honest and dedicated but a few officers may have crossed the line into misconduct.

"It is disheartening to learn that we may have officers who have violated the law and public trust," Harris said. "It is also disheartening that the actions of a few are placing a black eye on the multitude of honest and hardworking policemen and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve the public."

Harris offered a warning to officers found to be breaking the law and public trust.

"An officer puts his integrity and the public trust on the line each time he fills out an affidavit for a search warrant and takes it to a judge for him or her to sign so that a lawful search can occur," Harris said.

"Each time the officer does this, that information had better be true and accurate. We are still waiting to see what will become of this grand jury. But if policemen are violating the public trust and the integrity of the process, then that needs to be looked at. If anyone is found to be abusing the process, they need to be found out, removed from their jobs and prosecuted."

McFadden has accused one Tulsa police officer, Jeff Henderson, 37, of working with him to steal drugs and money, falsify investigative reports, give false testimony and persuade others to provide false testimony, according to McFadden's May 6 guilty pleading.

McFadden's attorney, Neal Kirkpatrick, has said that his client got involved in police corruption that has been going on for many years.

After Henderson was placed on paid leave in March, Harris' office identified 53 cases in which Henderson was a significant investigator or witness. Harris has dismissed felony drug cases against five defendants in which Henderson was a key witness.

Henderson's defense team has said he will be exonerated and that the allegations against him are false. Henderson's defense team has arranged two polygraph tests for him, which they say he passed.

The polygraph questions primarily addressed allegations that Henderson stole drugs, planted drugs and that he helped fabricate a drug buy that sent a father and daughter to prison in 2008.

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