AUSTIN -- An Austin police sex crimes detective visited an East Austin strip club -- not for work, but as a customer -- in his city-owned, unmarked patrol car and while on call to respond to sexual assaults and reports of Peeping Toms and indecent exposure.
But Austin police officials, who suspended Detective Lawrence "Lee" Davis in late October for 10 days, didn't include those details in a suspension memo released to the public. The KVUE Defenders, in collaboration with the Austin American-Statesman, however, discovered those details in recently obtained investigator reports.
Police officials, who frequently fully disclose reasons for an officer's suspension, said they did not do so in Davis' case for a number of reasons, including the potential embarrassment to the department.
"The actions by this particular officer were ones that didn’t bring good light,” Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay said. “To be honest, that is not something that we are proud of.”
The memo stated only that Davis had violated departmental policies prohibiting officers from "acts bringing discredit upon the department" and that his use "of a city vehicle while on-call for the Austin Police Department did not reflect the professionalism required of employees of the Department."
Gay said officials also did not include specifics about Davis' conduct because he agreed not to appeal his suspension; Such suspension memos are usually used as key evidence in appeal hearings.
The suspension led to about $3,000 in lost wages for Davis, who has since been assigned to another unit.
According to documents obtained by the Defenders and the American-Statesman, undercover detectives followed Davis as part of an on-going investigation into his conduct and found him twice in his city car at XTC Gentlemen's Club.
Davis did not dispute being a patron of the club.
Sgt. Wayne Vincent, president of the Austin Police Association, said Davis' actions were "technically not a violation."
But others questioned the perception among the public and victims about a sex crime detective visiting such establishments.
“For a survivor who comes to him after being sexually assaulted, and finds out he was frequenting strip clubs, I think there is a lack of trust that might occur,” said Rick Gipprich, spokesman for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. “She might think, ‘He has no idea what I’ve gone through and objectifies women, and am I going to get the type of justice I need?’”