Wild police party results in rape accusation, suspensions - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Wild police party results in rape accusation, suspensions

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Two Memphis police officers were recently suspended after a wild police party that went out of control and resulted in a rape complaint against an officer.

The party, which was held last August to celebrate a female officer's birthday, went on until 5:00 a.m., and resulted in a criminal investigation against a male police officer.

"(There was) a lot going on at what looks like sort of a loose party to say the least," Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said.
A party guest, who is not on the police force, alleged that Memphis police officer James Patterson raped her in a locked bedroom during the party.

An internal affairs investigation revealed the alleged victim had consumed seven glasses of wine, six shots of vodka, and two shots of whiskey that night.  The guest didn't tell Patterson "no" or "stop" during the act, but later told the officer hosting the party she'd been raped.  

The following day, she identified Patterson in a police photo lineup when she filed a criminal complaint.  But during a criminal investigation, Patterson told investigators the encounter was consensual, and his accuser was the aggressor.

The District Attorney's office ruled there wasn't enough evidence to pursue a rape charge.

"Fortunately for him, it ended up not being criminal, but really bordered that line," Godwin said.

Patterson's punishment was a 10-day personal conduct suspension for not practicing ethical decision making when sexual intercourse was initiated by a highly intoxicated stranger.  
"When he's on the job he seems to be focused and doing the things he needs to do," Godwin said.
But Patterson was on the job in 2008 when a female officer he was training accused him of rape and sexual harassment. She later recanted her complaint.
"We found that the other person was untruthful and that person was separated," Godwin said.
Further investigation revealed Patterson was in a consensual sexual relationship with his married trainee.  He admitted they'd performed sex acts in front of each other in the public parking lot of a community center. He was suspended for 13 days.
"We've got a real problem here or a real judgement problem," Godwin said.

Patterson's personnel file includes a number of commendations during his eight years on the force, but Godwin acknowledges a pattern of poor judgement.  
"You would hope that he's going, 'My gosh, I need to really pay attention with my personal life, and who I'm being intimate, with and things like that,'" Godwin said.

Patterson told Action News 5 by phone he was unable to comment on this story.  While he remains within the guidelines of Memphis Police Department standards, Godwin hopes Patterson's latest lapse in judgement at a wild police party will be his last.
"Officers make mistakes, and I hope they learn from them and then they move on, but unfortunately not everybody does," he said.

The officer hosting the party did not call police after Patterson's accuser told her she'd been raped. That officer received a five day suspension for violating the department's off-duty responsibility code.

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