26 November 2014

Not many citizens of Columbus are aware that if the police think you report too many crimes – or complain about them – Columbus’ finest will put you on a “list” and simply ignore your complaints.

The history of how a whistleblower or concerned citizen becomes a “chronic complainer,” blacklisted by the Columbus Police, is well-documented in public records.

Take for example Bernadine Kennedy Kent, the woman who initiated the federal investigation into vendor theft and fraud in the Columbus City Schools system. At the same time Kent was acting as a whistleblower and igniting a federal investigation into the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funds, she was being blacklisted by the Columbus Police.

How to become a chronic complainer

Kent, a former Columbus City Schools vice principal, runs the nonprofit advocacy group PASS – Parent Advocates for Students in School. In 2006, Kent filed complaints with Columbus Police against the Columbus City Schools for theft and fraud in NCLB funds. When this did not yield results, Kent provided information to the FBI that launched an investigation into the Columbus School’s tutoring program.

Later that year, when Kent attempted to file a complaint against a Columbus Police officer for failing to take a criminal report on alleged abuse and the gang rape of a 13-year-old child in a residential treatment facility, the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) refused to take the complaint.

On October 23, 2006, James Whitaker, Kent’s husband, called Lieutenant Murray of the IAB to complain that the police did not follow up on his wife’s complaint against the officer. In the course of the recorded conversation, Lt. Murray told Whitaker that, “We’ll be cancelling the complaint, too….We don’t take complaints from Miss Kent, she’s on a chronic complainers list….We got orders from Commander Gray….Miss Kent’s complaints continuously come up to be without merit.”

So Kent’s information was good enough for the FBI, but not the Columbus Police.

Public records obtained by the Free Press indicate that then-Internal Affairs Bureau Commander Ronald Gray created a chronic complainers list so that his bureau did not have to deal with complaints from activists concerned about police misconduct and brutality.

When pressed for more information about the police blacklist, Murray told Whitaker, “It’s not coming from Commander Gray, it’s coming from the Internal Affairs SOP. It’s been in place for years. It’s approved all the way to the top.”

Who is targeted for the police list and how long one stays remains a mystery known only to the Columbus Police. But, the easiest way to get on the list is to complain about a police officer.

The “chronic complainer list” re-emerged in 2012 during the ongoing Columbus City Schools’ scandal. On June 2, 2012, Columbus City School’s attorney Loren Braverman had his secretary call 911 on Kent and Whitaker because they asked for public records as they continued to pursue fraud in the tutoring program. Unable to generate any interest by the Columbus Police or to get them to protect their rights to secure public records, Kent and Whitaker responded by providing information to State Auditor David Yost about their investigation into what they believed to be fraud in Columbus City Schools. Included was some of the same information provided to the Columbus Police in 2006.

Curious as to why the police were not interested in easily documented corruption, wondered if the “list” mentioned in 2006 was the culprit. In a September 20, 2012 email to Columbus Police Chief Jacobs, Kent demanded an investigation into the “secret” list. Kent asserted that the blacklist “is criminal and prevented the investigation of massive fraud and identity theft in the federal-funded NCLB SES program… .” This author, acting as their attorney, also requested in writing a number of records from the Columbus Police in regards to criminal complaints made by the couple.

In 2012, Kent volunteered to babysit for her goddaughters, ages 3 and 8, when they confided to her that they had been sexually abused by their 9-year-old brother. In May, Kent filed a report on the abuse with Franklin County Children’s Services, and on February 19, 2013, Kent and Whitaker filed a criminal report alleged rape against their goddaughters. A report was entered and forwarded to Detective Joshua Gantt on February 24, 2013. The couple followed up with a six-page letter detailing evidence of the abuse along with a taped confession from the mother that she was aware of the abuse. They hand-delivered the complaint to Gantt at Columbus Police headquarters as again to the Franklin County Children’s Services.

Public documents reflect that Gantt never interviewed the alleged perpetrator, but Kent and Whitaker claim that Gantt did offer to secure free popcorn for the young victims if they were brought to a drive-in where he worked special duty.

A subsequent report by the Franklin County Children’s Services documents what Gantt might have found out had he interviewed the male juvenile. The report revealed that the juvenile admitted that “he has sexually touched his sisters and that he had ‘humped’ them and other children.”

Once again, evidence good enough for a governmental agency to pursue was not good enough for the Columbus Police. While the Children’s Service agency was easily able to document the sexual abuse and child molestation going on, the police aided and abetted the coverup.

Also, not surprisingly, a court document alleging child abuse and neglect also reveals that the juvenile male had himself been sexually abused: “…being assaulted and molested by his mother’s husband (or Paramour).” Moreover, the complaint alleges that the mother, “intends to conceal the physical abuse and molestation and will not contact the authorities.”

According to under oath testimony by the children’s grandfather Gantt responded to the criminal complaint by telling the victim’s mother that she should get a restraining order against Kent and Whitaker.

Columbus Division of Police Lieutenant Mark Gardner wrote in a three-page to Deputy Chief Richard Bash the following analysis: “Ms. Kent and Mr. J. Whitaker are clearly stalking Ms. Bostic and her family and are now bullying the Division of Police with continuous complaints and frivolous allegations via their proxy, Attorney Fitrakis. Detective Gantt would be remiss if he did not direct members of the public to seek out legal resources available to them to protect themselves from other members of the public who are harassing them and intentionally causing them mental duress.”

Although Kent and Whitaker provided an abundance of well-documented evidence of sexual assault against their goddaughters, the police saw it differently.

Lieutenant Gardner ended his communication with Deputy Chief Bash with the following assessment: “It is my understanding the Division of Police has refused to accept future complaints from Ms. Kent and Mr. Whitaker. With that being said, it abundantly clear that these individuals are now using their attorney, Mr. Robert Fitrakis, as their surrogate complainer. I recommend the Division of Police, at a minimum, add Attorney Robert Fitrakis to the “chronic complainer list” and cease accepting future complaints from him regarding this case or related cases. I have no doubt Ms. Kent and Mr. Whitaker will continue to ‘game the system’ through Mr. Fitrakis if the Division of Police does not put a halt to these shenanigans at once.”

So, that is how this author got on the “chronic complainer list” along with Kennedy Kent and James Whitaker, who provided the initial evidence against the abuse in the Columbus City School system and provided the information to Franklin County Children Services to intervene in a sexually dysfunctional family.

I am starting my own list of police departments that condone and cover up sexual abuse. Let’s see, there are the Penn State campus police, the city of Steubenville Police Department, and the Columbus Police. Although, to be fair, the latter seems to simply condone sexual abuse if it involves people of color and lower income individuals.