The San Jose Police Department responds…

Wow.

So here’s the followup on the San Jose Fairmont story.  It’s completely wild.  Long post, but please do read.

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Lieutenant John Rose was great to talk with.  He thanked me for my concerns and for contacting him about the situation.  I said that I understood my facts might be incomplete, but that when I saw a distressed victim alone in the lobby, I had to say something.  He told me more facts about the case, and the situation was not what anyone thought.

There was no rape.

Turns out the woman was not a victim–but a suspect.  She and her friends had been running through the hotel all night, knocking on doors and yelling that she’d been raped and needed help.  In other words… a very tasteless “prank.”  And later that night, she apparently robbed a hotel guest with a weapon.  So the police were investigating her for armed robbery.  She was crying because she was in custody and possibly going to jail.  That’s why there were so many officers there, questioning tons of witnesses.  They verified that the claim of rape was just a game.

He also said that I did the right thing by contacting the police department to discuss my concerns.  They have 1,300 officers, and they want to know if individual officers mishandle a case.  He asked if the officers had been rude to me, and I said no, they’d been fine–now that I understood what was really happening.  Their conduct made a lot more sense.

I’m enraged by this young woman who yelled “rape” when there was none.  What a crime to commit against the victims of actual rape, who struggle to be believed!  Lt. Rose sympathized, and said he’d seen a lot of sexual assault cases in his time on the force and that he agreed that the woman’s conduct was frustrating.  He also said it was understandable that I thought the situation was a case of officers mistreating the victim, because that does happen in some jurisdictions.

So there we have it.  I can’t believe anyone would think that was a good game.  I feel greatly taken in by her lies–yet at the same time, I stand behind what I did.  As I said at the time, I could only comment on what I saw.  I kept an open mind that maybe something else was happening that I didn’t know about.  And I’m glad I did.  If I had to do it all over again–I’d do the same things.

I will continue to believe people who say they were raped, unless there is strong evidence otherwise–which in this case, it sure looks like there was.  Lt. Rose agreed with me on this point.  He said a convoluted case like this one was far more common than I would think, especially on Halloween and prom nights.  He invited me to a ride-along and said it would be great to meet a writer.  I’ll likely take him up on that (once I get over this illness).

I asked Lt. Rose what he thought I should have done in that situation.  He said that if I (or any of you) see something similar, and are concerned about the way the police handled something, call the local department and ask for the supervisor in charge of that area.  If the officers mishandled something, they want to know about it–and if it’s a messy case like this, they might be able to explain certain details and ease concerns.

As for what happens in actual rape cases, Lt. Rose told me the following.  When the police are dealing with a sexual assault victim, they immediately take him/her to a center for handling this situation (I forgot the name, but he said it had nice couches). The victim only needs to do one interview, and they have a “vertical system” for handling things–the victim interacts with one officer from start to finish, rather than a series of different ones.  Also, there’s only one DA involved from start to finish.  This policy helps minimize trauma to the victim.  The officers would never leave a victim alone in a hotel lobby.  I’m sorry I can’t remember everything–we talked for a long time.  He described more details, and I was satisfied with what I heard.

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So I will say this: The SJPD did a fine job handling this case, to the best of my knowledge.  I’m confident that the SJPD treats rape victims with great care and gives them good support.

I’d like to publicly thank Lt. Rose for talking with me.  I’m writing a followup to the Chief and the Mayor because I want to commend Lt. Rose for his openness, compassion, and forthrightness.  I’ve sent him the link to this post, in case I’ve misremembered anything, or left out something important–Lt. Rose, please do let me know if there’s more I should add here.

Thank you all for listening, and for your support and encouragement.  It moved me to see how many people cared–and now I’m relieved to know that the situation wasn’t what any of us thought.  It’s critical for citizens to keep an eye on their authority figures (consider the BART shooting incident, or any number of police officers who abuse their power).  But there are good officers too, who are trying their best to keep our community safe.  And so I’m glad I followed up on this, and I learned a lot from the whole experience.

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