A Police Chief and a Faculty Love Triangle

The University of Cincinnati police chief was supposed to investigate threats stemming from an alleged affair between faculty members. Instead, an outside report says, he contacted the woman involved “well beyond any investigative imperative.”

December 4, 2017
 
Anthony Carter, former police chief

Two’s company and three’s a crowd. Four, apparently, is grounds for resignation, especially when it’s accompanied with 171 text messages and 11 phone calls over a 36-day period.

That’s the number of times that Anthony Carter, chief of police at the University of Cincinnati Police Division, contacted a female faculty member during and after an investigation into threats her estranged husband, also a faculty member, made after discovering a photo that allegedly showed her in a compromising position with another male faculty member. Carter “unnecessarily and without precedent” inserted himself into the investigation, according to a report by an outside firm, commissioned by the university and obtained via public records request by The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Carter has since stepped down from his role as chief of police and is now working as a researcher at the UC Institute of Crime Science in a position slated to run until September 2018. His new assignment was announced shortly after his resignation in late November.

The faculty members involved in the investigation were not named in the report, but the basic rundown of the scenario -- which also includes a cameo by the Westboro Baptist Church -- looked like this: the husband discovered a photo of his wife and a co-worker in a “sexual setting” and commented to a university dean that he would kill the male faculty member.

The comment was reported on Sept. 1 to the director of public safety, who then told Carter to follow up on the matter. One of his detectives interviewed both the married faculty members.

The husband admitted making that statement but said it was made in the heat of the moment and under duress, and he had no plans on following through. The wife said she was not romantically involved with the other faculty member, and that her husband wasn’t a threat to them. The wife later indicated to the detective that she hadn’t been truthful about her entire account, and the detective tried to set up another interview, although the wife didn’t respond to the request.

Carter entered the scene when he and the female faculty member met in a “purely happenstance” manner, according to the report, when the Westboro Baptist Church staged a demonstration on campus. Carter was there to oversee the safety of the protests and counterprotests, and the wife among many at the university who were there observing. He asked the woman to speak to him regarding the case involving her husband, and later followed up with an email.

Over the next 36 days, their communication became “oddly personal,” according to the woman, and Carter asked her three separate times to meet with him in a social setting -- whether or not these invitations were intended as dates is disputed -- including a Cincinnati Bengals football game. The woman said no to each request.

Carter’s lawyer told the Enquirer that he disagreed with the report’s findings and said his remaining in contact with the woman after the initial investigation into the threats was closed was a professional courtesy. Any notions of a romantic gesture were "misinterpreted," and Carter’s gestures were merely “friendly.” He also said that the female faculty member was the only one who mentioned the concept of a “date” or “romantic relationship,” and that Carter corrected those notions.

The report, the university and campus advocates for victims of sexual harassment, however, disagreed with Carter’s interpretation and said that his extensive communication had the consequences of overstating his authority on the case and making the woman feel more unsafe than she should have felt.

The report’s findings were as follows:

  • That Carter did not take the immediate steps necessary to determine if a credible, bona fide threat of physical harm to faculty or students really existed.
  • That Carter unnecessarily and without precedent, injected himself into nonsupervisory aspects of the investigation bypassing traditional command and control, heightening his participation only after meeting Wife face-to-face.
  • That Carter unnecessarily and inappropriately maintained extended and extensive contact with Wife, well beyond any investigative imperative.
  • That Carter, whether intentionally or unintentionally, led Wife to believe that he was acting on behalf of the university in assessing the professional standing of both her and Husband.
  • That Cater unnecessarily put wife in fear for her safety, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by overstating any danger to her.
  • That Carter failed to officially document his interactions with Wife as would typically be required of an investigating officer dealing with a witness or complainant.
  • That Carter failed to inform … his subordinate [detective] working on the case, of all of his contacts with the witness, notwithstanding that there was potentially relevant safety information contained in those conversations.
  • That on three separate occasions, Carter inappropriate asked Wife to attend a social activity with him. While Carter denied that any of these requests constituted a “date,” irrespective of its characterization, the conduct constituted inappropriate interaction between Carter, acting as an investigating officer, and a vulnerable witness in the investigation he was conducting.

The chain of events that set off the report occurred later in September when the husband allegedly made another threatening comment about the other male faculty member, which was reported to authorities but denied by the husband. Afterward, though, the female faculty member told him of Carter asking her out after the husband complained that Carter had treated him unfairly in the follow-up interview about the alleged second threat. The husband then told the university that Carter had asked out his wife, and while the university was sorting out that information, Carter asked the wife to see a play with him.

On Oct. 24, about a month after the university was informed of Carter’s communications with the wife, Exiger, an outside consulting firm, was asked to look into the matter. The university asked Carter to resign on Nov. 22, two days after the report was completed, and Carter appealed before ultimately turning in a resignation. University lawyers had found that his actions were inappropriate but did not warrant his dismissal, according to more documents obtained by the Enquirer.

A day after his resignation was accepted -- Nov. 27 -- the university announced his research position. Carter has been positively credited, according to his personnel file, with helping rewrite the department's mission statement and increasing diversity.

“In sum, we find that while Carter may have been concerned about the overall well-being of Wife, he engaged in inappropriate conduct, which was motivated, at least in part, by a desire to further his own personal interests,” the report read. Carter’s combination of actions and inactions “leads to the conclusion that the threats were not his primary interest or concern if any real concern at all.”

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