Friday, June 22, 2012

Tort Claim Notice Of South Bend's Former 911 Operator Sheds Light On Content Of Recorded Conversations

Soon after taking office as South Bend's mayor earlier this year, Pete Buttigieg learned that the city's 911 operator, Karen DePaepe, regularly recorded phone conversations of not only 911 callers but also calls placed by the city's police officers as she had been directed to do by the city's former chief of police, Darryl Boykins. Buttigieg fired DePaepe and demoted Boykins after he had allegedly been told by the FBI that the recording policy violated federal wiretap laws. DePaepe had notified Boykins of the content of some of the conversations between police officers that concerned her, which triggered the investigation leading to her firing and Boykin's firing. Earlier reports had suggested that the content of those conversations included racially derogatory comments about Boykin, who is African-American. This week, DePaepe filed a tort claim notice with the city that sheds more light on the content of the recorded conversations in question, which included allegations of criminal wrondoing and efforts to convince Mayor Buttigieg to get rid of Boykins. The South Bend Tribune reports:

During her job, DePaepe has said she discovered — during random maintenance of the recording system — police officers within the department “engaged in serious acts of misconduct.” That allegedly included the potential commission of criminal offenses, to serious breaches of city policies and procedures.
The claim continued: “The content of some of the conversations contained racially derogatory statements relating to other ranking officers (including Boykins).”
The tapes, Duerring said, also contain discussions by the officers about schemes on how to influence then incoming mayor Pete Buttigieg to place certain individuals in positions of power within the police department. That, he said, included the ouster and replacement of Boykins.
DePaepe reported her findings to Boykins, and was later fired for doing so, Duerring said.
DePaepe’s firing has caused her to “suffer grievously,” according to the tort claim. Duerring added she was a 25-year veteran with no blemishes on her employment record.

The extent of damages cannot yet be determined, he said.

“Given the grievous and outrageous conduct of the city and the extent of the financial and emotional impact suffered by Ms. DePaepe, we are seeking damages,” including for loss of income, benefits and damages to her reputation and character. Duerring claims the investigation and firing has violated DePaepe’s constitutional rights and caused her “public humiliation.”

In making the decisions to fire DePaepe and demote Boykins, Mayor Buttigieg has suggested he was only acting on the advice of federal authorities; however, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Indiana announced three weeks ago that it would not be filing charges in the case. Boykins is also suing the city, claiming his demotion was racially motivated. A total of seven South Bend employees have filed tort claim notices over the incident.


CircleCityScribe said...

-am I missing something here? Isn't it common knowledge that all 911 calls are recorded?

Gary R. Welsh said...

The problem isn't with the 911 calls; it's with the recorded phone conversations between police officers that were not not made on the 911 call line as I understand it.