Two former high-ranking Chattanooga police officers may have covered up years of rape allegations

Two former high-ranking Chattanooga police officers may have covered up years of rape allegations

May 23rd, 2019 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - February 03, 2012 - Captain of Special Investigations Edwin McPherson watches a sobriety check of a motorist on the lot at Kanku's near Tunnel Blvd. Investigations into former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan found McPherson and former officer Pedro Bacon may have played a role in covering up years of rape allegations against the fellow officer.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

About the reporting

This story was reported over 11 months by the Times Free Press. Sources who are not being identified have asked not to be disclosed due to their current roles with law enforcement agencies and other organizations with knowledge of the investigations.

The newspaper has spoken with women who have accused Desmond Logan of wrongdoing, their families, their attorneys, law enforcement officials, investigators, as well as personnel with the police department, mayor’s office, city attorney’s office, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and former police officers who are identified in the story. Logan has not returned calls seeking comment.

Investigations into former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan found two now-retired, high-ranking officers may have played a role in covering up years of rape allegations against the fellow officer, according to sources with knowledge of the investigations.

The decorated officers — retired Assistant Chief Edwin McPherson and retired Capt. Pedro Bacon — and their potential roles in a cover-up are being looked into as part of ongoing investigations. Logan is under investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and the FBI. He was previously the subject of an internal affairs investigation by the Chattanooga Police Department.

Officials believe McPherson and Bacon were involved in the suppression of records and emailed about their attempts to cover up the accusations, sources told the Times Free Press. However, digital footprints and emails that may confirm the allegations have been withheld for months by the city attorney's office because they are part of the ongoing federal investigation and criminal investigation by the sheriff's office, city attorney Phil Noblett said.

"The city of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Police Department and Office of City Attorney are cooperating with the FBI and have turned over all information that relates to Officer Logan's investigation," Mayor Andy Berke said in a statement Wednesday. "While we cannot comment on specifics to this investigation, any attempt by law enforcement to cover up wrongdoing is unacceptable. The city expects its officers to conduct themselves with the utmost integrity."

Police Capt. Edwin McPherson, left, and Lt. Pedro Bacon sit at a table during a thank-you celebration honoring them on Thursday, June 25, 2015, at Eastdale Recreation Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. Investigations into former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan found Bacon and McPherson may have played a role in covering up years of rape allegations against the fellow officer. / Staff photo by Doug Strickland

Police Capt. Edwin McPherson, left, and Lt. Pedro...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The investigations are focused on the alleged rapes of at least three women by Logan between 2015 and 2018. None of the men have been charged, and there are no separate investigations into McPherson or Bacon at this time, according to sources.

Chief David Roddy and other department leaders have said they were unaware of any allegations prior to a June 2018 incident that sparked the investigations. An officer and other sources with knowledge of the investigations believe the actions of McPherson and Bacon kept department leaders from learning about the rape allegations for years, they told the Times Free Press.

One of the sources said Roddy and former police chief Fred Fletcher didn't know about the original incident because McPherson, the assistant chief, and Bacon, who was over internal affairs, suppressed the allegation.

"They got rid of it and didn't forward it up the chain of command to Roddy and Fletcher. There's a digital paper trail of them doing that. There's emails between the two discussing it," the officer said.

Another officer claimed Logan's misconduct was common knowledge within the department before the 2018 accusation. That officer called the Times Free Press the same day as Roddy's June announcement that Logan had been accused of sexual misconduct to say Logan's history of wrongdoing was known within the department.

Bacon denied any knowledge of a cover-up. He also declined to hear the allegations outlined against him and said all he knows is what has previously been reported by the Times Free Press.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said. "If there's emails, I don't know what you're talking about. What you guys have written, that's all I know. I didn't know."

McPherson also declined to comment.

"I'm not obligated to talk about it, and I don't have anything to say about it at this time," he said before hanging up.

This isn't the first time McPherson has been accused of covering up evidence.

In 2012, McPherson intervened in a homicide investigation involving his niece, according to Times Free Press archives. Detectives believed she was responsible for setting up a gang-related robbery that led to the death of Bernard Hughes. Four men were charged in the homicide but investigators never had proof to charge McPherson's niece, according to an internal affairs report. His actions prompted defense attorneys to file a motion to dismiss the case. Internal affairs investigators with the police department recommended McPherson be disciplined, but the department's five chiefs overturned the decision.

McPherson was also a candidate to become chief in 2017, a position ultimately given to Roddy.

McPherson and Bacon retired together in 2018, about nine months after Roddy was named chief. The two were honored by the Chattanooga City Council May 8, 2018, for their years of service. The two also received certificates of appreciation in 2015 for their work to decrease crime in drug hot spots. They shut down drug houses, arrested burglars and closed establishments that drew crime to North Brainerd, community members said at the awards presentation.

Desmond Logan / Photo contributed by WRCB

Desmond Logan / Photo contributed by WRCB

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

 

LOGAN'S ALLEGED MISCONDUCT

The first alleged rape by Logan dates back to 2015 shortly after Logan started with the police department. The former officer picked up the woman late one night, told her she was under arrest and took her to an empty parking lot off Rossville Boulevard, where he allegedly raped her in the back seat of his police vehicle.

The woman told jail officials of the rape and took a rape kit test, she said.

A report of Logan's alleged misconduct was entered into an internal police department system called Blue Team but later removed, likely to ensure other department leaders were kept in the dark, according to sources within the police department.

Over the next three years, Logan would be accused of raping at least two other women while on duty, and he was fired from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga police department in 2016 — two years before he resigned from the Chattanooga department — for misconduct against a woman. Another woman was arrested by Logan and asked to dance to avoid jail time, she told the Times Free Press. She did not and was arrested.

The woman from the June 2018 incident sued the city last week claiming the department knew of prior sexual misconduct, covered up rape for years and has a history of ignoring wrongdoing. Logan resigned from the police department in January minutes ahead of an internal affairs hearing. He was under investigation by the department for untruthfulness and two counts of improper procedure.

There is no record in Logan's internal affairs files of wrongdoing before June 2018.

A UTC police officer filed a report about the 2016 incident at the university, and Logan was no longer allowed to work for its police department.

"To my knowledge, we didn't pass that along [to the Chattanooga Police Department]," UTC Executive Director of Emergency Services Robie Robinson said. "He was a term employee who didn't meet our standards."

Chattanooga Police Department statement

Two law enforcement agencies are conducting investigations into the alleged criminal actions of former officer Desmond Logan. Due to these open investigations, the Chattanooga Police Department is unable to comment or speak to any specifics of the case or any subsequent allegations.

Since first learning of Logan's alleged criminal actions on June 13, 2018, CPD has cooperated fully with both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Hamilton County Sheriffs Office. CPD will continue to cooperate with these agencies and provide any data, documents, or information necessary in order for them to conduct complete and comprehensive investigations.

As more details of the investigations are provided CPD will continue to evaluate any related revisions to policies and procedures.

From UTC's perspective, the incident had been handled. Officials there filed a report and fired the employee. The woman who reported the incident also didn't want it to go any further, Robinson said.

McPherson was the point of contact for Chattanooga police officers working at the university, according to police officials. After his retirement, he was hired by UTC police as a sergeant for community engagement and special operations, where he now works.

"He came out as the top ranking and strongest candidate," Robinson said. "We did a background check, and that came back clear. There wasn't anything in there that did not keep him as top ranking candidate, so we brought him on."

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.


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