By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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He took her cell phone and the "caller ID" unit attached to the phone inside her house, and then left. "She fears he may become more violent," the police report concludes, "as she states he has pointed a gun to her head on several occasions."
On April 8, 1998, the day after the episode, the initial police report was forwarded to St. Amand, and it became his responsibility to investigate. Despite the violent nature of the incident, St. Amand never contacted the woman.
Six weeks later, on May 19, 1998, the victim received a call from Sergeant LaPorte asking if she was satisfied with the way her case was handled. She said she was still waiting to hear from a detective.
In another case a 22-year-old woman contacted police on May 2, 1998, after an ex-boyfriend threatened to kill her. According to the initial police report, the woman said the former boyfriend told her he had a gun and would shoot her. When she tried to run away, the suspect chased her, according to the report, grabbing her arm and telling her that if she didn't get back together with him he would burn down her house. He then ran off and the woman called police. A patrol car arrived a little before midnight, and the woman described what had occurred, providing police with the name, address, and telephone number of her ex-boyfriend. The officer who took the initial report told the woman she should seek a restraining order.
On May 4, 1998, the case was assigned to St. Amand. The next day he concluded his investigation by filing a "supplemental report" that states: "Victim was given D/V [domestic violence] form and referred to the courts for an injunction. No visible signs of injury or witnesses."
A person reading this report could easily conclude that it was St. Amand who provided the victim with the information, and St. Amand who independently confirmed there were no witnesses or visible signs of injury. But in truth St. Amand never contacted the victim.
In a third instance a 33-year-old woman complained on February 25, 1998, that her former boyfriend attempted to rape her. The ex-boyfriend grabbed the woman, placed a piece of duct tape over her mouth, "and told her she was going to have to be quiet." She eventually persuaded him to remove the tape, according to the initial police report. The former boyfriend then tried to handcuff her, but once again she was able to talk him out of it. Luckily for the woman, her phone rang just then and her ex-boyfriend allowed her to answer it. On the line was her current boyfriend, the report states. The woman was able to convince her attacker that he should leave because police were on the way.
The case was assigned to St. Amand the same day as the alleged attack. The next day he again filed a supplemental report closing the case and stating, "Victim was given D/V form and referred to the courts. No signs of injury or witnesses."
The woman says St. Amand never spoke to her. She even told Sergeant LaPorte she left several messages for St. Amand because she wanted to speak with him, but he never returned her calls.
The North Miami Police Department's response to these troubling discrepancies was itself troubling. Rather than initiating a formal internal-affairs investigation, Police Chief Tom Hood in May 1998 decided to conduct a less formal administrative review of St. Amand's actions. For several reasons that decision was critical. An internal-affairs investigation would have been more thorough and would have generated numerous reports regarding St. Amand's conduct. Sworn statements would have been taken from the victims, as well as St. Amand's colleagues and superiors in the domestic-violence unit. By handling the matter as an administrative review, Chief Hood was able to limit the amount of damaging information gathered about St. Amand and his work unit.
Commander McCue, St. Amand's supervisor and the person responsible for overseeing the administrative review, acknowledged in an interview earlier this month that she made a decision not to put her findings in writing; her reports were delivered to the chief verbally.
Also had the department conducted an internal-affairs investigation, it is likely the matter would have been reviewed earlier by the State Attorney's Office, which routinely examines completed internal-affairs cases.
Following McCue's administrative review, Chief Hood issued a written reprimand of St. Amand on June 9, 1998. The reprimand states that "the employee is inefficient in the performance of his assigned tasks or duties, to wit: employee repeatedly failed to complete work accurately and in a timely manner."
None of the information surrounding St. Amand's failure to contact victims was included in the reprimand or placed in his personnel file. He was neither suspended nor fined; in fact he was allowed to remain a detective in the domestic-violence unit.
Last week Julia Dawson, president of the North Miami chapter of the National Organization for Women, wrote a letter to the city manager. She said she was "extremely concerned" about the city's unwillingness to deal with St. Amand more decisively, and she noted that domestic-violence cases are highly sensitive. "Only specially trained individuals with the highest level of professionalism should be entrusted with this work," she wrote. "In this case it is appalling to find out that even after receiving a written reprimand for failing to properly pursue domestic-violence cases assigned to him, Detective St. Amand was still allowed to continue working in that area. That fact alone made public will undoubtedly impact the public's trust in the North Miami Police Department's judgment and ability to properly address domestic violence and sexual-assault cases."