Journalists and detectives learn early in their careers to obtain the right answers to their questions. For reporters, the basics of a story mean providing the answers to the “who, what, when, where and why.” Criminal investigators also want to ascertain the “how.” Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones doesn’t seem to let the basics get in her way when she hands out disciplinary actions left and right. Police Lt. Bob Rawlinson was suspended following an internal investigation into the handling of evidence in the Cleashindra Hall case.
City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott confirmed that Rawlinson has appealed the suspension and a hearing before a civilian review panel will be held by Aug. 9. The panel replaced the Civil Service Commission, which was abolished by the Pine Bluff City Council last year.
Last month, Crime Scene Technician Cathy Ruhl was suspended for five days by Davis-Jones for allegedly improperly handing the evidence collected in the Hall case.
Davis-Jones has developed a not so nice reputation for not returning telephone calls from nosy reporters working for The Commercial and other publications, and broadcast outlets. We can only assume that the pink iPhone purchased with taxpayer money is still working and the battery is charged up.
We don’t know why Rawlinson was suspended. Police officials have developed a case of lockjaw when it comes to answering questions of that nature.
Did anyone explain Ruhl’s suspension? “Improperly handing evidence” collected in the Hall case covers a lot of territory. Was the evidence really misplaced for a month? We are not expecting Davis-Jones to pick up her iPhone, call and answer the question.
The search was conducted on March 29 and the evidence sent to the crime lab May 8.
The internal investigation resulted from the discovery that the evidence collected during that search sat at the police department for more than a month before it was sent to the Arkansas Crime Laboratory at Little Rock.
Police Capt. Greg Shapiro has declined to discuss the Rawlinson suspension or the reasons behind it, citing the pending appeal. Now that the appeal has been filed, that position is not all that solid under privacy law.
Rawlinson was the department’s public information officer under several chiefs of police and had a reputation for returning telephone calls from those nosy reporters. He also developed a reputation for telling the truth. He might decline to answer a question now and then because of legal constraints in criminal investigations, but we can’t recall him ducking and running for cover like Davis-Jones.
Rawlinson was one of the lead detectives in the Hall case. He headed the search for evidence at 5309 Faucett Road, the home of Larry Amos and the last place Hall, a senior at Watson Chapel High School, was seen before she disappeared May 9, 1994.
Davis-Jones reassigned Rawlinson on April 8. He is now one of two patrol division supervisors on the department’s night shift.
Police have not been specific about the nature of the evidence collected at Amos’ home. That’s not unusual in criminal investigations, but the evidence must be listed in what is known as the “return” on a search warrant. An inventory list prepared by Rawlinson indicated the evidence consisted of four items listed as being taken from the west wall of the Amos living room.
Laurell Hall, mother of Cleashindra Hall, is still hoping that information about her daughter’s disappearance will surface. The public has a right to expect more from our police chief. It’s called accountability.