MU’s Office of Student Conduct handles few sex offense cases

I’m enormously surprised and gratified by the impact of my story last month on sex offense reports at the University of Missouri. From the article’s syndication in the Associated Press, to the MU police department’s change in how it publicly address sex offenses, to my stint as a panelist on NPR, this story has garnered far more attention than any of my other investigations, and I’m still preening.

Hundreds of readers shared it on social media, making it the Missourian’s most-read story that month. I think that shows how much this issue – the lack of reports, and, subsequently, prosecutions, of sex offenses – touches a nerve and affects so many people. The most touching feedback came from a victim and a university official, who both told me how how my reporting elucidated problems they had personally experienced.

Besides the subject matter, this article was difficult due to the astonishing amount of pushback my editor and I received from university officials. I’m happy to say that after its publication, we’ve had no corrections or blowback from those officials. Thank you to everyone who read, commented, edited, supported, shared or critiqued!

Ryan Ferguson continues quest for freedom

These six court documents explain each side’s argument in the contentious Ryan Ferguson murder case. I’d suggest starting with Ferguson’s habeas corpus petition, filed in January 2013.

Survey shows 90 percent satisfaction rate toward Columbia Police Department

Columbia Police say results of a “customer service” survey launched last spring show a satisfaction rate of more than 90 percent. Reporters Samantha Sunne and Youyou Zhou explain how the survey was conducted and how well it represents the community.

“Customer satisfaction” survey part of Columbia police PR push

By Samantha Sunne and Youyou Zhou

On Saturday, Dec. 3, when Columbia Police Officer Curtis Brown issued a warning to a driver who had run a stop sign in north Columbia, his speech sounded like something he’s done for years.

“Slow down, stop,” he said through the pickup truck window. “That’s what it’s there for, alright?”

But when Brown moved on to the second part of his speech, it was something new that was added this past spring. He handed the woman a card advertising an online survey with questions about her “satisfaction” about being pulled over.

“Be honest,” Brown said. “If you think I was a jerk, then you tell them I was a jerk. If you thought I was being nice, tell them I was nice.”

Under a directive from Chief Ken Burton, Columbia police officers have been handing out the survey cards since last April. According to Burton, the surveys will be used indefinitely as a way of providing police with feedback on the quality of their service. In other words, it’s a “customer satisfaction” survey.

So far, results show an overall satisfaction rate of 87 percent. Ninety-two percent of respondents said the officer was “helpful and polite,” and 91 percent said the officer answered their questions and kept them informed. Seventy-eight percent were satisfied with police response time.

Right now, 183 people have responded to the survey. That’s a small number when compared with the 90,000 interactions police say they have with citizens each year.

Mary Ratliff, president of the NAACP Columbia branch, said in her recent interactions with police, not only were the officers rude, but she was not given a survey card.

“If you’re handing out cards, you can give the cards to whomever you want to give them to,” she said. “And you can not give them to whomever you don’t want to give them to.”

Burton said a lack of responses is a major flaw in the survey program so far.
“I’m a little concerned that we’re not getting enough of the cards out there,” he said. “You always have a low response, but it does require somebody to make an extra effort (to take the survey), so it’s not really surprising either.”

Ratliff said she was running late one day to a Sunday school class when she was speeding. When an officer stopped her and issued her a ticket, she said he took as long as he possibly could, keeping her waiting for at least 10 minutes.
“The survey comes back and indicates, ‘oh, everybody is happy with everything,’” she said. “That is not the case.”

The survey asks how a person has interacted with police and whether they were arrested, a victim or a witness. So far, more than half of the respondents have answered “other.”

Though you’d think that those arrested would not be happy with police, a conversation with a man recently arrested on domestic assault charges shows otherwise.

Byron Brown is in the Boone County Jail and awaiting his trial. Though he said he was falsely arrested and denies the charge of attacking his girlfriend, he had positive things to say about the officers who arrested him, and said he had no complaints.

“They did their job,” he said.

Burton said he wants every citizen to be treated as a customer because as taxpayers, they are paying for the police department’s services. But instituting this new philosophy of customer satisfaction is slow going, he said.

“You make changes to attitudes over a period of time, and you tell employees that it is important,” he said. “We will be responsive to people who pay the bills.”

See the survey results:

[documentcloud url=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/281815-cpd-survey.html” width=600]
Document source: Columbia Police Department

Washington’s attorney might seek change of venue

Former Missouri football senior captain Derrick Washington will be tried for two counts of misdemeanor domestic assault Dec. 8. He is pleading not guilty.

Associate Circuit Judge Deborah Daniels set a preliminary hearing for Washington’s felony sexual assault charge for Monday, but defense attorney Christopher Slusher asked that it be waived.

Slusher said he planned to request a jury trial for the felony case and said he is considering requesting a change of venue.

Ashley Lane/Graphic Designer

Washington did not appear in court Friday because, though he is required to appear for his sexual assault case, he is not required to appear for his domestic assault case.

The former Missouri tailback is accused of hitting and choking an ex-girlfriend in September and sexually assaulting a former MU tutor in June.

Slusher said having the misdemeanor case tried by jury would push the court date back again, past December.

“We are considering requesting a jury trial (for that case),” he said.

Preliminary hearings are never held for misdemeanor cases, but they are typical for felony cases. Slusher said preliminary hearings are rarely held in Boone County.

“We’re waiving our right to something we’re never going to get,” he said.

Washington is living and attending school in Kansas City. He was dismissed from the Missouri football team in August after he was charged with sexual assault. He later withdrew from MU, forfeiting his scholarship.

Washington’s bond stipulates that he cannot have contact with any of his alleged victims or commit any law violations. Daniels raised his bond amount to $10,000 in September, given that he committed his second offense while out on bond for his first.

Sunne, S.A. (2010). Washington’s attorney might seek change of venue. The Maneater, 77. Retrieved from http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2010/11/9/washingtons-attorney-might-seek-change-venue/