Ex-Lumberton officer sees parallels in how Dolan treated him, Raleigh officers
Posted December 15, 2011
Updated December 16, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — A former police officer who worked with Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan 15 years ago is echoing the recent claims made by some Raleigh police officers that Dolan targeted them.
The Raleigh Police Department investigated officers in the Southeast Raleigh Substation earlier this year amid accusations that they had sex with prostitutes. Several resigned, were fired or were placed on administrative leave.
Sgt. Rick Armstrong was cleared in the probe but was fired in July after investigators found evidence that he had sex with a woman while on duty. Armstrong denies that allegation and is fighting to regain his job.
A 14-year veteran of the police department, Armstrong was head of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, a professional group that represents the interests of police officers.
He has said that he believes Dolan doesn't like the RPPA because it has disagreed with him in the past about how officers are promoted and their salary grades.
Dolan justified Armstrong's firing in an Aug. 18 letter.
When Walter McNeill heard about Armstrong's case, details about his own run-in with Dolan came rushing back.
"Sparks just went off, like a bomb. I mean, it was like a bomb again. It started all over again," McNeill told WRAL Investigates recently.
A Lumberton police officer for 20 years, McNeill was demoted in 1997 by Dolan, who was chief of the Lumberton Police Department from 1992 to 1998. Dolan accused him of having sex with a woman while off-duty – an encounter that was reportedly broadcast on his hand-held police radio.
"It was not true," McNeill said. "I lost all confidence in Harry Dolan."
Another former Lumberton officer, KeVin Graham, said he told internal affairs investigators that the profane radio transmission didn't come from McNeill's radio. Instead, Graham said, it came from his hand-held radio as he chased and tried to subdue a female suspect.
Graham, who now works in the mental health field, told WRAL Investigates that he was disappointed that Dolan and internal affairs investigators didn't believe him.
"We're law enforcement officers, and we're supposed to uphold the law," he said.
Dolan issued a statement Thursday to WRAL Investigates, saying that McNeill's case "was handled properly and in full accordance with all applicable policies."
He noted that McNeill didn't appeal the demotion after Lumberton's Personnel Board upheld it and continued to work for the police department.
"I am at a loss to explain why Mr. McNeill may have chosen to publicly raise the issues from 1996-97 now, rather than legally pursuing them when he could have done so," Dolan said. "However, I know that I would have been negligent in my responsibilities if I had failed to order a departmental investigation of the occurrence involving then-Sgt. McNeill and at least equally as remiss if I had failed to prescribe appropriate discipline when presented with the findings of the department’s internal investigation.”
Mickey Biggs, the retired internal affairs investigator for the Lumberton Police Department, said McNeill never took responsibility for his actions and continues to hold a grudge over his demotion.
Biggs said the department's investigation also included the allegations of one woman who said McNeill groped her and a second woman who said he propositioned her. Neither woman testified at the grievance hearing, but he said that was because they feared retaliation from McNeill.
McNeill has denied harassing either woman.
Biggs also discounted Graham's testimony, saying it may have been racially motivated because Graham and McNeill are black and Dolan white.
"I believe it was a good, thorough investigation at the time, and I still believe in the decisions that were made, and I still stand by those," Biggs said.
McNeill claims that Dolan targeted him because he stumbled in on a meeting of officers he supervised in the fall of 1996. He never learned what the meeting was about, but he reported the incident to his supervisor.
"He said the chief was upset with me," McNeill said.
McNeill worked for the Lumberton Police Department for two years after his demotion – he was never able to regain his previous rank – and retired after a motorcycle accident in 1999.
Both he and Graham said they believe Dolan spearheaded McNeill's downward spiral at the department.
"It starts at the top – the chief right on down to the internal affairs division," Graham said.
"The chief was the ringleader. The chief was the ringleader," said McNeill, who wonders if the same thing is happening now with Dolan in Raleigh.
"He's got a problem. He needs to stop saying these things about police officers," McNeill said.