Fayetteville police in hot seat over rapes

Fayetteville City Council

January 19, 2010 9:10:10 PM PST
Fayetteville's mayor is ordering the city manager and police chief to change the department's policy on reporting rapes in the city.The order came after a contentious meeting at city hall where the city manager took the heat for the police chief.

Police investigators say seven rapes or sexual assaults in the city since last June may be connected.

Many residents who packed city hall Tuesday night, including city council members, are angry the police didn't warn the public.

"I think it sends the message, again we are in an era of transparency, when people need know things, and that's not happening," community activist Troy Williams said.

City Manager Dale Iman repeatedly defended the way Police Chief Tom Bergamine and the department handled the assaults saying investigators had to balance the public's right to know and not disclosing confidential information that could jeopardize the case.

"When we made the connection the similarities with these cases, we made the announcement," Iman said.

Fayetteville City Council Member Bill Crisp says he didn't buy the city manager's explanation of police policy on reporting rapes, calling it an excuse.

"We have got to let these ladies know their safety and security is tantamount," Crisp said. "We have got to notify people there is a problem in their neighborhood."

Residents and city leaders say police can warn the public without jeopardizing victim's rights or an investigation. And that's what the mayor and the council told the city manager and police chief to do.

"There was allot of beating around the bush never getting to the meat of it, giving unanswered about what you are going to do," resident Rev. Rosie McMillan said.

"When we finally got to the bottom, there was a breakdown in communications let's get it fixed so it does not happen again," city council member Keith Bates said.

Now the pressure is on the city manager. Most council members say they hope he will have a new policy in hand when council members meet Monday night.

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