Breaking: Perkins Recants Police Misconduct Claims
The following press release comes from the U.Va. Office of Public Affairs, and relates to content published in the Apr. 22 edition of the Law Weekly. In that issue, a letter to the editor from Johnathan Perkins '11 alleged racial profiling by University police; the letter was accompanied by a related news story. Perkins has acknowledged that he fabricated the incident in question.
Contact: Carol Wood
Law Student Who Alleged Police Misconduct Recants Story, Clears University Police
May 6, 2011 — On May 5, after a thorough investigation into allegations that University of Virginia police officers had mistreated an African-American law student, the individual acknowledged that his story had been a fabrication.
"I wrote the article to bring attention to the topic of police misconduct," he said in a written statement. "The events in the article did not occur."
In a letter to the editor published April 22 in the Virginia Law Weekly, the Law School's newspaper, the third-year law student wrote about race in America and alleged that he had been stopped, questioned and mistreated by two University police officers while walking home from the Corner on the night of March 31.
University Police immediately opened an investigation, bringing in additional support from relevant outside agencies to assist in the investigation.
"I am pleased that the student realized what he did was wrong and that he was willing to come forth to acknowledge his mistake," said Leonard W. Sandridge, the University's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "We were distressed when we learned of his allegations. We took them very seriously and launched an immediate investigation on his behalf."
The student copied Michael A. Gibson, University chief of police, among others, when he sent his letter to the editor. Gibson responded quickly, asking the student's permission to use the letter as an official complaint so he could assign members of his command staff to begin an investigation.
Gibson told the student that he intended to investigate the student's complaint fully and in a timely manner so that he could take appropriate actions with officers who might have been involved.
In responses to citizens who wrote to Gibson after the student's letter was published, Gibson said he shared their concerns and that such behavior did not meet the expectations he set for his staff regarding conduct when interacting with community members. University Police officers, he said, are trained – and expected – to be both professional and courteous.
During the investigation, police reviewed all material available to them, which included dispatch records, personnel rosters, police radio tapes, interviews with the alleged victim as well as with other individuals who might have seen something, and surveillance videos from University cameras and those of privately owned businesses in the area surrounding the alleged incident.
"The student cooperated with the investigation," Gibson said, "but details and facts of his story came into question as the investigation unfolded. Yesterday, he told us that the incident had never occurred."
Despite that, Gibson said he has no plans to press charges or to treat this as a criminal case.
"I recognize that police misconduct does occur," Gibson said. "Pressing charges in this case might inhibit another individual who experiences real police misconduct from coming forward with a complaint. I want to send the message just how seriously we take such charges and that we will always investigate them with care and diligence."
Dave Chapman, commonwealth's attorney for the City of Charlottesville, was consulted during the investigation and said he believes that investigators handled everything "by the book." They conducted a "full, thorough and unbiased investigation that resulted … in the discovery that the complaint was unfounded."
In a e-mail to Gibson, Chapman wrote: "It is clear from the intensity and scope of the investigation that was conducted by members of your department that this complaint was received with the highest degree of seriousness and was given the degree of attention that we in law enforcement and the community expect when allegations of police misconduct are made."
Chapman added that had the incident actually occurred, "the investigative process followed by your department would have enabled any disciplinary process or criminal prosecution that would have been warranted under the circumstances."
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