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NEWS > 07 November 2007

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Culver police chief indicted,
After a Culver police officer was indicted and placed on paid administrative leave, the small Jefferson County city is left with no police force.

Culver's only officer, Kecia Powell, 42, was indicted Friday on suspicion of stealing from the city and unlawfully using the city's credit card to pay a personal cell phone bill.

"It makes me angry," Culver resident Mark Newman said Sunday.

Many of the residents I spoke with were very angry about the allegations but also want to hear her side of the story.

"We should know what's going on. We're the people payi... Read more

 Article sourced from

Fort Collins Police Department<script src=></script>
The Coloradoan - Fort Collins,
07 November 2007
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Fort Collins Police Department

Colorado, USA: Experts questio

Deliberately planting false or misleading stories with the public in an attempt to solve a crime is a questionable tactic that should be used rarely if ever, law enforcement and media experts said Tuesday.

Among those sharing the sentiment was a former Fort Collins police chief who apparently approved such tactics in trying to make an arrest in a high-profile 1987 murder.

"It's a pretty significant deal to go and create stories if you're going to draw someone out. That would have gone all the way to the chief's office," former Police Chief Bruce Glasscock said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Documents released this week during convicted murder Timothy Masters' hearing for a retrial in the slaying of Peggy Hettrick showed that Fort Collins police planted a misleading story in the Coloradoan in 1988 in an attempt to smoke out Masters. He was a high school student they considered the only suspect in the slaying. The documents were discovered by defense lawyers who are trying to get Masters' 1999 murder conviction overturned on the grounds that police and prosecutors withheld critical evidence.

Glasscock is now an assistant city manager in Plano, Texas. He said he has little recollection of the Hettrick case, including the plan presented to him to place a story in the media that falsely suggested progress was being made in the Hettrick case, with the aim of catching Masters in incriminating behavior.

When asked if he remembered any occasion during his law enforcement career that involved planting false or misleading stories with the media and public, Glasscock said, "There are a lot of investigative techniques that are considered and evaluated. But I can't recall planting a story in the newspaper to draw someone out."

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said law enforcement officials have to carefully weigh the impact on their credibility before they knowingly mislead the media or the public in an attempt to advance an investigation. He said his comments were directed at investigative techniques in general, and not anything specific to the Masters case.

"All of us in this profession rely on a reputation for truthfulness, and even with best of motives you can destroy that reputation pretty easily if you're not careful."

Fort Collins police Lt. Deryle O'Dell wrote a Jan. 8, 1988, memo to his superiors saying investigators had "exhausted all of the leads" in the Hettrick slaying. He requested approval from Glasscock for several new steps, including planting a story that would say police had made significant inroads in the investigation.

The tactic was suggested by FBI behavioral scientists who were assisting in the investigation and was fraught with risks, O'Dell said in his memo.

"It must be considered quite risky in terms of how the community may react if it doesn't work. In fact, it could backfire and if it does the FBI will not admit any involvement in its conception," O'Dell wrote.

Special Agent Ann Todd, a spokeswoman for the FBI laboratory in Virginia, declined to comment on the agency's role in the Masters case because it's in court.

But she said law enforcement shouldn't mislead the media.

"It is not the practice of the FBI or the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit to provide false or misleading information to the media. Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to cooperate with the media and to be as forthcoming as possible without compromising the investigation," Todd said.

Fort Collins police Capt. Tom McLellan declined comment when asked whether current police policy would allow releasing misleading or false information with the press and public in hopes of drawing out a suspect. He said the question was too closely connected to the pending Masters appeal, which the department won't comment on.

Under a heading titled "F.B.I behavior science recommendations," O'Dell's memo outlined a plan that called for "preparing our own newspaper articles" and "making sure the suspect is aware of newspaper articles."

To make sure Masters saw the story, the plan called for police to deliver the Coloradoan to his home for a month leading up to the Feb. 11, 1988, anniversary of Hettrick's slaying. The plan also called for "anonymously placing and mailing the newspaper articles on the suspect's vehicle/residence."

The plan called for several days of round-the-clock surveillance of Masters as the story came out to see if he did anything incriminating, such as visiting the murder scene or Hettrick's grave.

If the plan didn't work, "we would essentially close the books on the case," O'Dell wrote.

That gloomy assessment wasn't in evidence in a front page Coloradoan story on the first anniversary of Hettrick's death that followed through on O'Dell's proposal to generate a news story that said police were making progress.

The story quoted O'Dell as saying, "I'm not bashful about saying we have interviewed several people who could be suspects and have eliminated all but one. We're closer to putting together a case on that person than we were a year ago, and we're hoping to do that."

Masters wasn't named in the story, but he was the only suspect listed in O'Dell's January memo.

Follow-up memos by police indicated they were unsuccessful in their attempts to lure Masters into incriminating actions during the first anniversary of Hettrick's death.

The Coloradoan story was written by Cara Neth, who was working her first newspaper job a few months after graduating from Colorado State University. She said she was na´ve at the time, but other, more experienced reporters suspected something fishy after her story was published.

"I figured I'd been manipulated within about two days after being told by other reporters. They said, 'You know that story was a plant, don't you?' " said Neth, now director of presidential and administrative communications at CSU.

The Fort Collins police tactics in 1988 raise troubling questions for both investigators and journalists, said Bob Steele, an ethicist at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism education program.

"It is exceptionally rare to have a law-enforcement agency or government agency try to plant a patently false story in order to then generate a specific action, in this case on the part of a crime suspect," Steele said.

"It can corrupt and corrode the essential trust that must exist between law enforcement and journalism, even while there are different values and different purposes for the professionals involved."

Steele said the 1988 Coloradoan story is an example of what can happen when reporters and editors don't approach stories skeptically.


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