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Syracuse Police Chief speaks out

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Albany/HV: Syracuse Police Chief speaks out
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They have kept silent for days as they began to take a look at the Bernie Fine case and their own role in the matter. Now, Syracuse Police are speaking out. Police Chief Frank Fowler discussing just what took so long to launch a full investigation. He spoke with YNN's Bill Carey.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. --It was 2002, Syracuse Police received a call from a young woman who told them the story of a friend who claimed he had been sexually abused. It was not an unusual call for members of the Abused Persons Unit to receive. What may have caused a stir was the name of the alleged abuser, SU Associate Basketball Coach Bernie Fine.

Several days passed before Detective Doug Fox, a veteran investigator, received a call directly from the victim. His name was Bobby Davis.

“The phone calls lasted approximately four minutes and Detective Fox advised him that, based on what he was saying to him at the time, that the statute of limitations was up for that particular case. But, he told him if he had additional information or if he knew of any other victims, that we were very much interested in pursuing it,” Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler said.

Davis did not call back and the information he had given detectives was not enough to pursue a full scale probe.

Fowler said, “We're not going to generate an official police report that would become a matter of public record just based on a phone call.”

Word did go up the chain of command. Among those informed, then police chief Dennis DuVal, a former basketball player at Syracuse University. There is no word on whether DuVal ordered any follow up or whether he had any contact at the time with Bernie Fine.

Bobby Davis was not happy with the police response to his complaint and took his story to the Syracuse Post Standard. The paper did its own investigation and was in possession of an audio tape of a conversation between Davis and Laurie Fine. A tape that has changed perception of the Fine case.

“I wasn't the chief in 2002, but I am the chief now. Had I been the chief in 2002, you betcha it would have made a difference to me,” Fowler said.

In the end, no newspaper story, or any story by ESPN, also tipped to the case.

It was not until November 17th that police again heard about the case of Bobby Davis. They received a phone call from Davis' friend, Danielle Roach. And also Syracuse University arrived with a report it had prepared following its own investigation back in 2005. An investigation the University had never acknowledged before.

“We've been very straightforward and candid about this whole process. We've gone through our due diligence. New things came up and we felt it was important both for Bernie Fine and the University,” Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor said.

The new information led police to believe federal law might apply in the case. They, along with the U.S. Attorney's office, have been aggressively investigating ever since. There's no word, at this point, on how long the probe might take.

Fowler said, “We will not comment specifically on this investigation, whether it's hypothetical or not. We will have no comments on the investigation.”

Police Chief Fowler says the review of the 2002 incident has already led to some changes in procedures in dealing with sex abuse cases. A full review of all policies on such cases is underway.

Statement from Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler:

I would like to set the record straight and clear up some misconceptions that have surfaced in the media about what did or did not happen in 2002 under a previous Syracuse Police Department Administration when allegations of abuse by Bernie Fine were brought to the attention of a Syracuse Police Detective.

It is my belief that the public has the right to know who knew what and when in 2002 and 2003. After reviewing this matter for nearly two weeks, the following is an explanation of what occurred since 2002 within the Syracuse Police Department

In 2002, the Syracuse Police Department did not start an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Bernie Fine. Syracuse Police will not identify the original victim. However, the victim revealed to a friend, who we now know to be Danielle Roach, that Bernie Fine had sexually abused him over the course of several years. Ms. Roach convinced the victim to report the abuse to authorities. Ms. Roach contacted a local attorney who provided her the name of Det. Doug Fox of the Syracuse Police Department’s Abused Persons Unit. This attorney then notified Det. Fox that he may be getting a phone call from a female who wanted to speak to him about a sexual abuse case. Several weeks later, Ms. Roach contacted that detective and told him that Bernie Fine had sexually abused her friend. Ms. Roach was asked to have the victim contact Syracuse Police directly. Approximately a month later, Det. Fox took a call from the victim who told the detective he was calling from Utah. In a brief phone conversation, he stated that Bernie Fine had sexually abused him while growing up and the abuse had occurred while he stayed at the Fine residence. He stated the abuse had occurred at least twelve (12) years prior to the phone call. After hearing the victim’s allegations and the timeframe, Det. Fox informed the victim the statute of limitations had expired. Due to the amount of time that had passed, authorities would be precluded by law from making an arrest. Det. Fox then told the victim that if he wished to meet with him in person, or if he was aware of any current victims, he would like the victim to share additional information. The victim believed he knew the first names of possible victims and that if he learned their last names, he would call back.

Det. Fox notified his supervisor in the Abused Persons Unit and it was decided that unless the victim met with the detective or the victim was able to provide names of other victims, then an investigation would not be initiated. The Syracuse Police Chief at that time, Dennis DuVal, was made aware of the allegations against Bernie Fine. Due to the fact that no investigation was started, Det. Fox did not prepare any formal reports.

Several months later, in 2003, the Syracuse Police Department received an inquiry from the Syracuse Post Standard as to whether an investigation had been conducted on Bernie Fine. The Post Standard was informed that no investigation had taken place.

It should be noted that the first time the Syracuse Police Department ever met face to face with any victim in this case was on November 17, 2011, when two victims came to the Syracuse Police Department, along with new evidence. Ms. Roach informed us that the Syracuse Post Standard and ESPN were both in possession of a copy of that evidence and had been in possession of the evidence since 2003. At no time in the last eight years did the Post Standard or ESPN notify Syracuse Police that they were in possession of that evidence.

The first time the Syracuse Police Department learned of Syracuse University’s internal investigation was when the University presented the Syracuse Police Department with a copy of its report on November 17, 2011.

On November 17, 2011, after hearing the allegations made by the victims and reviewing new evidence, the Syracuse Police Department initiated an investigation to determine if in fact these allegations were true, and if there are any current sexual abuse victims. The investigation is active and ongoing and has entered a new phase with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Secret Service taking the lead.

The Syracuse Police Department will continue to work diligently with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Secret Service and the Onondaga County District Attorney to fully investigate all allegations.

I was not the Chief in 2002 and I cannot change the procedures in place at that time or the way this matter was then handled. But what I can and will do as Chief today is ensure that moving forward all reports of sexual abuse are formally documented. I have ordered a review of all Syracuse Police Department policies and procedures regarding the documentation of sexual abuse allegations made over the phone and appropriate changes will be made accordingly

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