MPD detective demoted after tipping off family of rape suspect

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis Police Department is taking swift action against a detective they say leaked information to the family of a man suspected of rape.

Ouita Knowlton is a decorated Memphis police officer who was demoted from Lieutenant to Sergeant.

She did not lose her job, even though her personnel file our investigators obtained reveals she admitted to tipping off the family of a rape suspect.

Knowlton, a sex crimes detective, admitted to sharing confidential investigative files with a coworker on an aggravated rape case.

The coworker's nephew was accused in the case, but the information was leaked before he was arrested.

Knowlton's personnel file stated, "You were approached by the Sex Crimes Payroll Specialist, who is the aunt of the suspect, seeking confidential information regarding the investigation. At the time you provided the payroll specialist with sensitive and confidential detail pertaining to the case."

Memphis attorney Michael Working said the information Knowlton obtained would eventually be revealed as the case moved forward.

However, Working sees the bigger problem coming if Knowlton is prosecuted.

"They could file a charge against her but it seems to me the DA has a very tough choice to make there because that would probably compromise a string of witnesses for them in dozens, if not hundreds of other prosecutions," Working said.

Friday, Memphis Police Department issued the following statement about the investigation:

"This administration is extremely disappointed in the actions that were taken by two MPD employees.  After a thorough internal investigation, MPD took serious and appropriate disciplinary action against both employees.   Due to the fact that this case is still under review by the District Attorney General's Office, we are unable to comment further."

Knowlton was a critical part of the city of Memphis' efforts to clear a backlog of more than 12,000 untested rape kits.

She was honored by the Shelby County Crime Victims Center for her work and received an award from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

The DA's office is reviewing the case to determine if criminal charges will be filed.

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