Commish, D.A. to investigate high-ranking cop's conduct

Posted: August 31, 2012

POLICE COMMISSIONER Charles Ramsey has asked an outside law firm to investigate the conduct of one of the department's highest-ranking officers.

The Daily News this month reported that the officer, Staff Inspector Jerrold Bates, allegedly coerced former aide Keisha Johnson into a sexual relationship to keep her job.

The District Attorney's Office also has launched a probe to determine whether Bates should face criminal charges, Ramsey said.

Bates is a former top supervisor in the police Internal Affairs Bureau, which investigates complaints against police officers. He was also the bureau's Equal Employment Opportunity Officer in charge of investigating abuse, harassment and discrimination complaints within the department.

Ramsey this week ordered Internal Affairs to review any EEO complaints that Bates had deemed unfounded, after the Daily News raised questions about Bates' handling of cases.

"We'll look at all of them, just to make sure we don't have any issues," Ramsey said.

Bates had a history of alleged domestic violence well before Johnson filed her complaint July 3 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Yet Bates repeatedly got promoted through the ranks until he landed in Internal Affairs.

Ramsey transferred Bates to the Special Operations Bureau and had Internal Affairs begin an investigation after he learned of Johnson's allegations.

Ramsey also discovered the past domestic-abuse allegations against Bates after Johnson's complaint came to light.

The commissioner then took the unusual step of arranging through the City Solicitor's Office to have lawyer Alan Epstein of Spector Gadon & Rosen take over the Johnson/Bates investigation from Internal Affairs.

"It's being handled by an outside entity because of the sensitive nature of the case and because he was there [in Internal Affairs]," Ramsey said. "No matter what the outcome is, I don't want it to look like some undue influence was being exerted."

Bates, a married 21-year veteran, said: "I'm not going to comment until after this is over. . . . I look forward to our day in court."

Domestic troubles

Bates, 42, was the subject of Internal Affairs complaints from his former fiancee and his ex-wife over a period of six years in the 1990s.

They both told authorities that Bates assaulted and threatened them. The former fiancee said that he told her that if he lost his job, she'd lose her life.

His ex-wife, Lt. Danielle Vales, grew so desperate that she wrote a two-page memo to then-Police Commissioner John Timoney begging for help.

"I have given enough information to [the Internal Affairs Bureau] on this man to get him fired and arrested," Vales wrote in the December 1998 memo obtained by the Daily News.

"If he gets fired because of me, he will kill me. Of this I am certain," she wrote.

Vales wrote in the memo that then-Deputy Commissioner Sylvester Johnson (no relation to Keisha Johnson) was "protecting" Bates and asked that Johnson not be informed of the contents of the memo.

Two years after Vales sent the memo, Bates was promoted to lieutenant. In 2003, a year after Johnson became police commissioner, Bates was promoted to captain. Two years later, he was named staff inspector.

Johnson told the Daily News last week that he doesn't know anything about the memo and was unaware of the abuse allegations.

"We weren't close at all," Johnson said of Bates. "I know of him, but I never socialized with him. He never went anyplace that I've ever been. I would never cover up anything like that. I wouldn't have put myself in that position."

In September 2007, a few months before Johnson retired, Bates was transferred to Internal Affairs.

"I didn't sign off on transfers," Johnson said. "I let the deputies handle that."

'He grabbed me . . . '

When Bates' former fiancee broke off the engagement in December 1992, Bates demanded that she return the diamond ring.

"I was at my mom's house. I came out the door and it was him," said the woman, now a 44-year-old nurse whom the Daily News is calling Donna because she asked that her name be withheld.

"He ran to get me. He said, 'If you don't give me the ring back, I'm gonna f--- you up,' " Donna told the Daily News.

She twisted the ring off her finger, threw it on the ground and turned to run. "He grabbed me by the front of the shirt and put it in a knot," she said. He then clutched her gold-chain necklaces and yanked them from her neck, breaking them, she said.

Bates punched her and pushed her in the chest, Donna told the Internal Affairs investigator. Bates told her that if she called police, nothing would happen to him.

Donna, then a 24-year-old nursing student, was able to escape to her car and drive to her job. Bates, she said, followed her and screamed at her in the parking lot.

A police officer was called to the scene and referred the complaint to Internal Affairs.

Bates, she said, had a warning for her: "If I lose my job, you lose your life."

In a Feb. 5, 1993, interview with Internal Affairs, Bates admitted that he grabbed the woman's arm, but said he did not use force. He also denied threatening her.

Eleven days after Donna made the complaint, she told investigators that she no longer wished to pursue the matter.

"I didn't want to go to court. I didn't want him to lose his job," Donna told the Daily News.

"I wanted it over," she said. "I didn't want to be bothered with him."

Ex-wife: Assault charge

Danielle Vales told the Daily News that she met Bates when they were both cops covering a hospital detail. They married in 1994.

Bates assaulted her twice in April 1998, the month that they separated, according to the memo she wrote to Timoney.

"The first April incident I was on duty in the 5th District . . . My husband came to Henry and Walnut Lane while I was working 4 [p.m. to] 12. He threw a set of keys at my face. This was witnessed by my partner. Before we could call for a supervisor, he fled in his car," she wrote.

In May 1998, Vales went to the FBI about Bates, and agents sent a report to police Internal Affairs.

On Dec. 19, 1998, Bates assaulted Vales at home, according to her memo.

Capt. Daniel Castro showed up and "persuaded the [lieutenant] to have the [police report] reworded. I have never seen the report," Vales wrote.

Bates "told me that he discussed these events with Capt. Castro and he was advised to 'get me before I got him,' " Vales wrote in the memo.

Castro is serving five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit extortion for strong-arming a business associate into repaying a debt.

Timoney, reached last week in Bahrain, where he now works as an adviser for the Ministry of the Interior, said he didn't remember Vales' memo.

"If that memo reached my desk, it would've gone to [Deputy Commissioner] John Norris in Internal Affairs, and then an investigation would have been conducted," he said.

Norris, who became the chief of the Cheltenham Township Police Department in 2004, declined to comment.

The memo shows that the investigation was assigned to Capt. Theresa Levins, who said last week that she couldn't remember the case.

Vales said the investigation was far from thorough. "After I wrote the letter to Timoney, I was interviewed one time and that was it. Once the whole time," Vales told the Daily News in a recent interview.

The Internal Affairs investigation into Vales' memo isn't public record. But after talking with the Daily News, Ramsey allowed Internal Affairs to discuss the case.

"As far as allegations of domestic violence or domestic abuse, they found no violations of Police Department policy" by Bates, said Internal Affairs Lt. Kevin Long.

Vales was also advised to get a protection-from-abuse order against Bates, Long said.

"If I get a restraining order on this man, he will lose his mind," Vales wrote in the memo.

Their divorce was finalized Oct. 4, 1999.

Vales, who is demure and soft-spoken, has been working in Internal Affairs for six years.

Asked if it was difficult for her to work in the same office as Bates, she replied: "There's no animosity . . . I stayed in my cubicle."

'Let the cards fall'

It's unclear how Bates ended up with Internal Affairs.

"Somebody probably requested him to go there," Sylvester Johnson said.

When asked whether anyone checked Bates' own Internal Affairs history before he was assigned there, Johnson said, "They should have checked him out."

Bates recruited Keisha Johnson, now 39, a few months after he arrived in Internal Affairs.

When Bates allegedly groped her and fondled her breasts in his office, he told her that this was the way things worked in the Police Department, according to Johnson.

Johnson said that she repeatedly told Bates that she felt uncomfortable and wanted him to stop. But she said that Bates told her that if she didn't comply, other women were lined up to take her job, and he showed her photos of them.

Bates then bullied her into having a sexual relationship during work hours outside the office, Johnson said.

For years, Johnson kept silent. "I was in Internal Affairs. Who was I going to tell?" she asked.

Johnson has since resigned from the department and moved to Georgia.

"Rest assured, I'll let the cards fall where they may," Ramsey said.

"If [Bates] did something wrong, he'll be dealt with. If he's innocent, he'll be cleared," Ramsey added.

"Everyone's entitled to due process. Even murderers have their day in court. He's no different."


Contact Barbara Laker at 215-854-5933 or lakerb@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @barbaralaker.

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