NEW ORLEANS -- A shakeup at the Tulane University Police Department that resulted in the resignations of the chief and a deputy chief has also led to the firing of a top commander, one of multiple officers who were hired by the university after committing misconduct during stints at the New Orleans Police Department.
Capt. Angela Davis had been at Tulane PD for 13 years and rose to command the patrol division. But Tulane fired her last week after administrators said they learned from WWL-TV that she had resigned from the NOPD under investigation.
Tulane hired an outside law firm in January to look into a series of anonymous complaints, including several against Davis, who had been hired in 2005 just a few months after the NOPD Public Integrity Bureau issued her a criminal summons for battery against a complainant and for hitting two fellow officers.
Asked why Tulane would hire someone with Davis’ 21-year record at NOPD, including multiple cases of fighting with other officers, Tulane administrators issued a statement saying, “Our hiring process has greatly improved since the time of this hire and now includes more stringent screening and background checks.”
Tulane says it’s still investigating the hiring of another former NOPD officer who remains on the force. Tamara Grant was fired by NOPD in 2004 after she hit and allegedly made moves to draw her weapon on fellow officers who were trying to arrest her boyfriend.
“We have a lot of people that were flunkies from NOPD. Is that the type of police department that we want? I wouldn't want my kid coming here with that,” said a current Tulane police supervisor, one of 10 current or former Tulane officers who spoke to WWL-TV on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution from their employer.
Davis told WWL-TV she feels she is being “scapegoated” for the management problems at Tulane. She provided the station with four years of good, and at times exemplary, performance reviews, and said she was not given proper opportunity to defend herself against a round of recent complaints.
“I just don't understand why after 13 years at Tulane they are suddenly bringing up my history at NOPD,” Davis said.
But Davis acknowledged that she was put on notice last year after leaving her service pistol, a high-powered Glock, on a table set up for nursing mothers in a restroom in the Lavin-Bernick Center, the nerve center of the main Uptown campus.
Photos of the scene show Davis’ fully loaded weapon sitting next to a binder entitled “LBC Lactation Room.”
Davis served a three-day suspension and told her supervisor it wouldn’t happen again. She called it a “mishap,” but one of her former subordinates, Jaron LeBeauf, told WWL-TV Davis had done the same thing in 2012, when a woman found Davis’ gun in a restroom at Tulane Medical School and returned it to him. LeBeauf said he reported it to his supervisor, but was told not to file a report on that incident. Davis said she doesn’t recall that happening.
Asked about an incident in 1999 where she lost her gun and a police radio at NOPD, Davis said the items were stolen from her car. But her NOPD disciplinary file says she left the weapon and police radio in a briefcase on the trunk of her car and drove off, losing them entirely.
“You did not miss this property until the end of your tour of duty for the day,” wrote NOPD’s then-chief, Richard Pennington, in a disciplinary letter to Davis.
LeBeauf said Tulane is lucky that the people who found Davis’ weapon went straight to the authorities. He said the man who notified security guards of the gun in the LBC Lactation Room could have been injured.
“She should have been terminated (then),” said LeBeauf, who spoke to WWL-TV while still on the force, but resigned last month citing a toxic work environment. “A young man found it and told us he believed it was a toy, so if he were to have just picked it up – (it could have gone off) through a wall, through a ceiling, at himself, you know.”
Davis said her termination notice cited four incidents since her suspension for abandoning her weapon. One claimed she had not been honest about her NOPD record when Tulane hired her, but she said she disclosed to the person who interviewed her at Tulane that she had disciplinary problems at NOPD stemming from her personal life and she was fixing that.
Davis said Tulane knowingly gave her a second chance and she made that confidence in her pay off, until a group of disgruntled officers began targeting her.
One of the other issues Tulane cited in firing her was a sexual harassment complaint from a new female officer who alleged Davis had inappropriately stroked her arm and shoulder. Records show the complaint was dismissed before the Tulane Office of Institutional Equity reviewed video of the encounter.
The woman filing the complaint was incredulous in her appeal of Tulane’s initial decision.
“There's surveillance to further provide information regarding the Hertz center incident,” said the alleged victim, whose name is being withheld by WWL-TV. “I don't understand how this could have been possibly overlooked."
But records provided by Davis show that even after Tulane reopened the investigation to review the video, OIE stuck with its original finding of “no violation” by her. That’s why Davis said it’s unfair that Tulane is now citing the sexual harassment allegations as justification for firing her.
“If I touched her, it was only to tell her she was doing a good job,” Davis said.
Davis is also accused of participating in what Tulane President Mike Fitts, in a statement to the university community about the shakeup at TUPD, called “failure to follow standard procedures regarding personnel matters.”
In one case, Davis was one of three supervisors who found excessive use-of-force by officers who arrested a belligerent suspect at Tulane Medical Center, handcuffed him and then grabbed the man by the throat and used a Taser on him. In her initial report, Davis called the incident “egregious” and recommended possible termination for the officer who fired the Taser.
But she later reversed her decision, calling it a “rush to judgment.”
WARNING: Graphic video contains profanity
Davis also signed off on a document that sources with direct knowledge of the situation say was altered by commanders without the knowledge of the investigator who wrote it. That document was then used to fire two officers last year and to protect Grant, the officer who had been fired from NOPD for obstructing the arrest of her boyfriend.
Internal investigation files state that Grant and another Tulane officer, Lance Tillman, got into an argument at Tulane Hospital last year and Tillman allegedly used profanity. Another officer, Lena Griffith, was also there, but said she never heard the alleged profanity.
Lt. Maurice Trosclair conducted the internal investigation for Tulane PD. He concluded that Grant had instigated the incident and encouraged a nurse to make a complaint. Documents provided to WWL-TV show that Trosclair recommended the same minor punishment for all three officers: Verbal counseling.
That's the punishment Grant received. But then, sources with direct knowledge of what happened say Trosclair's reports for Tillman and Griffith were changed with Trosclair’s name on them, but without his knowledge, to make it look as if he had recommended firing the two officers.
“(Trosclair) told me that he absolutely didn't feel that they should be terminated, but he couldn't speak up at the time out of fear that he would fall victim to the same circumstances,” said an anonymous TUPD supervisor.
That supervisor said Griffith, who wasn’t even involved in the dispute and just happened to be nearby at her proper post, was collateral damage of Tulane PD’s toxic work environment.
“She had a spotless record. She's this little sweet country girl from up north. Never caused a problem,” he said. “And she comes to this university and for them to do what they did to her, is just an abomination.”
Davis signed the changed reports along with Chief Joey Bishop, who resigned Tuesday, April 3. Davis said she didn’t conduct the investigation and was just following orders.
“If that was determined by the chief, I have to follow the orders,” Davis said. “The practices are probably not the best practices for a police agency.”
Tillman and Griffith both declined to be interviewed for this story. Grant did not respond to requests for comment.
Tulane said it's still investigating the incident and if any mistakes were made in firing those officers, the school would make an effort to correct them.