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Experts: Phoenix police sanitizing lying officer’s sex assault claim

Phoenix Police Department
Posted at 3:34 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 01:18:50-04

PHOENIX — After ABC15 exposed how a recently retired, dishonest police officer racked up multiple sex assault complaints without consequence, Phoenix responded by sending a series of conflicting statements that downplayed the severity of the allegations.

Attorneys for the city also filed a motion to subpoena ABC15’s raw interview with one of the women who accused officer Anthony Armour of sexual assault.

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Top experts said the city’s actions raise concerns about the Phoenix Police Department’s ability to take sexual assault investigations seriously and their treatment of victims and survivors.

“It certainly signals that the Phoenix Police Department is explicit in rape culture,” said Andrea Ritchie, an attorney and author, who researches police violence. “And that becomes very concerning considering they’re the agency responsible for investigating and presumably responding to rape.”

On August 19, ABC15 aired portions of an interview with JeAnna Anderson.

She filed a lawsuit against Phoenix police and Armour after a 2015 traffic stop. Anderson claimed that Armour groped her pubic region and breast following a traffic stop.

She said she decided to speak out after seeing a previous ABC15 investigation about Armour’s place on the “Brady” list and how his history of dishonesty had been kept hidden from jurors in another case.

As part of the report, ABC15 also revealed an internal 2010 memo that shows a fellow Phoenix officer accused Armour of sexually assaulting her after a party.

“She lost consciousness and when she awoke, she noticed ‘Armour was having sex with me,’” according to the two-page memo.

The woman, whose name ABC15 is withholding, underwent a sexual assault examination at a local hospital. She decided to file an internal complaint and not a criminal one.

The department didn’t substantiate the allegation.

Phoenix police did not respond to a request for comment in advance of the report on Anderson and the 2010 allegation.

Five days after the story aired, ABC15 requested comment from the city council, mayor, and city manager’s office. None responded.

However, a police spokesperson then sent an email that confirmed the 2010 internal investigation [the email wrongly dated the case as happening in 2011].

“A female officer filed a complaint saying Armour sexually assaulted her,” the email said.

Unprompted a day later, another spokesperson sent a follow-up email to “clarify” the 2010 claim.

“The claim was actually filed in 2010, not 2011 and did not involve sexual assault. You’ll see the updated information below,” the email said.

The updated information stated, “Female officer filed a complaint that Armour had an inappropriate sexual interaction with her.”

However, the 2010 memo clearly states the allegation as sexual assault. Experts say the allegations contained in the memo do not support a sanitized phrase like “inappropriate sexual interaction.”

“It definitely sends a negative message to survivors,” said Scott Berkowitz, CEO of RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). “If we’re going to take (these crimes) seriously, we need to call them what they are.”

Laura Palumbo, a spokesperson with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said that kind of thinking and language can discourage people from reporting assaults.

“It sends such a silencing message to survivors of sexual assault,” she said. “That sends a message that’s not a safe place to go if you are a survivor of sexual assault, that you won’t be believed, that you won’t be listened to, or what happened to you will be minimized.”

JeAnna Anderson waited five months to file an official internal complaint against Armour related to the sex assault claims.

She did it through her attorney. “It was just the true fear of being around people I knew I couldn’t trust,” Anderson told ABC15 in her interview.

Following the station’s report on Anderson’s lawsuit and interview, civil attorneys for Phoenix filed a motion asking for permission to reopen discovery and subpoena the station for its unedited recording of Anderson’s interview.

The judge has not ruled on the motion so ABC15 has not been officially subpoenaed yet.

If the station receives a subpoena, ABC15 will fight releasing any unpublished and raw material.

The law clearly protects the freedom of the press and releasing this kind of information would send a disturbing message to victims and whistleblowers, who come forward to expose corruption that governments like Phoenix would like to keep secret.

ABC15 also requested Armour’s full internal affairs file two months ago.

So far, Phoenix police have not provided any records other than short spokesperson-provided summaries of 14 cases in emails.

At first, Phoenix provided a short summary for nine internal investigations. In the follow-up email, a spokesperson added summaries for five more cases.

Given the conflicting information and minimizing language used to describe the cases, ABC15 is still requesting all Armour’s records be released.

Armour retired early within the last year under an accidental-disability claim and is receiving a full pension.

“Police departments are terrible at investigating themselves when it comes to any type of offense,” Ritchie said. “They are particularly terrible when investigating themselves when it comes to sexual misconduct and sexual violence.”

She continued, “It’s also a predictor, it’s a parallel. If you’re an officer and you think you can abuse your power to the point of sexually extorting, assaulting, or harassing someone, then it’s really not a lot of steps to tasing someone in the genitals, to shooting them in the back, to shooting them in their bed sleeping as they did with Breonna Taylor who was shot. And low and behold, that officer had been accused of sexual misconduct not once but twice before.”

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.