Investigators: Metro Internal Affairs botched corruption probe - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Investigators: Metro Internal Affairs botched corruption probe

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Calling former Metro Chief Willie Lovett's handling of an internal affairs investigation "inadequate and unprofessional," Savannah officials on Thursday released the first of at least two investigations by Virginia-based private investigation firm MDBI International.

The report focuses on two officers, Willet Williams and Malik Khaalis, targets of a 2010 corruption investigation by the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team.

Williams was suspected of telling his brother, a Coastal State Prison corrections officer, that he was under surveillance by CNT.

Khaalis was suspected of tipping off Williams and of alerting potential drug dealers that their phones were being tapped.

Neither faced any criminal charges.

Both were cleared of wrongdoing by Metro Internal Affairs and remained on active duty until Oct. 2, a week after Chief Lovett abruptly resigned amid sexual harassment allegations from one of his own officers.

Williams and Khaalis have been on paid administrative leave ever since.

In a 128-page report submitted to the city, MDBI's investigators wrote that, "Chief Lovett's performance in the Khaalis/Williams matter, whether by design or negligence, was inadequate and unprofessional."

Investigators wrote that Lovett withheld vital information from Internal Affairs and told the department to prepare a report with false and incorrect information.

Internal Affairs' work was called "negligent and unprofessional" in the report.

But the officers who investigated the corruption case were praised as "strong investigators" and "strong leaders."

Among them were twin brothers Mike and Pete Delatorre, Metro officers assigned to CNT who investigated Khaalis and Williams.

The Delatorre brothers, both of whom have been named Metro's "officer of the year" in the past, left the department for police jobs out of state. They told a WTOC reporter they feared for their safety after the findings of their investigation were presented to Chief Lovett and the brothers were re-assigned to patrol, working the streets with Williams and Khaalis.

"We're sad we had to leave," Mike Delatorre said in a phone interview Thursday night. "We did everything we could. We hope things get made right."

The brothers' attorney, Will Claiborne, sent a letter to the city Nov. 26 saying the brothers were retaliated against for reporting corruption and may file a lawsuit.

Claiborne said Thursday night that he and attorney Wesley Wolfe, who is working with Claiborne on the case, are "pleased to see our clients praised by name. And we believe this is the vindication of their claims."

MDBI's report also praised by name Metro Officer Eric Broome. Broome was assigned to a Drug Enforcement Administration task force during the investigation into Williams and Khaalis and worked with the Delatorre brothers.

In June 2011, Broome was fired from Metro police after being arrested in Pooler for allegedly stalking an ex-girlfriend.

He committed suicide a year ago.

"I'm just sad that my friend Eric Broome isn't here to see the truth come out," Mike Delatorre said.

Khaalis now holds the rank of Metro sergeant and was promoted shortly after Internal Affairs wrapped up their investigation.

City spokesman Bret Bell said he expects "personnel actions" as a result of MDBI's findings.

Bell said nearly all officers working in Internal Affairs were re-assigned to patrol after Lovett resigned.

Capt. Hank Wiley, who headed up Internal Affairs during the investigation into Khaalis and Williams, retired when he was re-assigned to patrol.

Capt. Dean Fagerstrom, who is currently suing Lovett and the city for discrimination, now heads up the department.

Juliette Tolbert was promoted to Interim Chief when Lovett resigned.

Right now, MDBI is working on the second part of its investigation, concerning allegations of sexual harassment against Lovett and others.

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