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Chief Anderson's Statement to the Nashville Community Concerning Rape Report

12/19/2016


Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Office of the Chief of Police:


To:        The Nashville Public    

From:   Steve Anderson, Chief of Police

Date:    December 19, 2016

Re:       Indiscriminate Release of Sexual Assault Report
        
                                                

In the early morning hours of December 16, 2016, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department received a report of a violent sexual attack occurring at the Bridgestone Arena.  It was reported that this sexual assault occurred in a locked room and lasted for an hour or more.  Officers and detectives of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department responded and initiated all standard procedures.  Investigative information was gathered and arrangements for medical treatment and mental health counseling for the victim were initiated. The investigation revealed that the perpetrator was a coworker employed by Command Center—a contract cleaning company providing services to Bridgestone.

Later that morning, just as the investigation was beginning and a search was being made for the fleeing perpetrator, an employee of the Office of the District Attorney, Ken Whitehouse, electronically accessed the investigative report from the Police Department electronic data base.  For reasons that have not been explained, Whitehouse then immediately turned this report over to WSMV, Channel 4 News.

The report was delivered to Channel 4 News in its entirety.  The Channel 4 reporter prominently displayed the report and stated “this is the police report we got this morning.”  Indeed, it was the very police report containing the name, address and other personal information of this victim, the details of the attack and the identity of the perpetrator.  The report was NOT released by the Police Department.

The purpose of this correspondence is to ensure the public that this report was NOT released by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department nor any employee of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.  This report was released by Ken Whitehouse, an employee of the Office of the District Attorney.

It is my understanding that the sole reason Whitehouse accessed this report was to turn it over to Channel 4 News.  Certainly Whitehouse had no business purpose in making this report public.  In fact, Whitehouse had no business purpose in accessing the report for any reason.  Any attempt to explain the motivation of Whitehouse would only be speculation.  However, viewed in its best possible light, the actions of Whitehouse were irresponsible, unconscionable, a violation of the trust this victim placed in the criminal justice system and a violation of the public trust.

It is known that a substantial number of sexual assaults do not get reported.  A sexual assault is a very humiliating experience and an affront to the personal dignity of the victim. It is understandable that many victims are not willing come forward and face the public scrutiny that may follow.  For these reasons we have worked very hard to gain the confidence of the public and provide assurances to victims of sexual assaults that we will be as sensitive as possible as we provide care, support and assistance as we proceed with the investigation.

In making that very difficult decision as to whether to report a sexual assault, no victim of sexual assault should have to fear that their personal information will be immediately released to the public and that a reporter will show up at their doorstep within a few hours.  Victims of sexual assault should have confidence that the criminal justice system is there to support and protect them.

The reporting of sexual assaults is vitally important to the public welfare.  Victims of sexual assault need care and support as they cope with any physical and mental trauma resulting from the attack.  It is imperative that the perpetrator be brought before the courts to answer for the crime.  And, it is very important that the perpetrator be apprehended as quickly as possible and not be left free to victimize again and again.  No one in the criminal justice system should do anything that may tend to dissuade victims from promptly coming forward to report an attack.

On behalf of the all employees of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, and especially the detectives in the Sex Crimes Unit who work very hard every day to provide care and comfort to the victims of sexual assaults, I extend a personal apology to this victim and to all of Nashville.  The indiscriminate publication of this report violated the trust that all past, present and future victims of sexual assault place in the criminal justice system and cannot be tolerated.

I am advised that Ken Whitehouse will remain an employee of the Office of the District Attorney.  In my view he should not be in any position wherein he has access to sensitive information.  I do not have the authority to make that decision.

I am responsible for the operations of the Police Department.  Therefore, to the extent possible, measures have been taken to limit Whitehouse’s access to sensitive information.  Upon learning of this breach of trust, Whitehouse’s computer access to the electronic record files of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department was immediately terminated.  That access will NOT be restored—ever.  Additionally, I have sent an advisory to supervisory personnel in the Police Department to never discuss with Whitehouse any sensitive information or otherwise allow him access to any sensitive information.

Again, my apologies to all of Nashville.  This was a violation of trust and human dignity that should never have happened.  In any future considerations, I hope that any member of the Nashville public will understand that it was no member of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department that violated the trust the victim placed in the criminal justice system.  Were that ever to happen, you have my commitment that appropriate corrective action would be taken immediately.