A trooper hit his wife. The Maine State Police sent him to rehab.

Editor’s word: That is the third in a collection of tales collectively investigated and written by the Bangor Each day Information and Portland Press Herald about how the Maine State Police conceals officer wrongdoing. The Pulitzer Middle helped fund the collection.

The primary time Justin “Jay” Cooley hit his spouse, he tried to elucidate it away. It was Could 2019, and, for practically a yr, Amy Burns had watched the person she cherished disappear into an alcohol-fueled rage.

“I was frustrated,” Cooley texted Burns. “That’s all. Jesus. I hit you on the top of the head. It wasn’t out of anger.” Then he known as her a moron for suggesting in any other case.

Burns had thought she might belief Cooley. He was a Maine State Police trooper in spite of everything, one of many state’s elite officers. She additionally thought she might belief his employer.

On Could 24, 2019, she known as her husband’s troop commander. She instructed him about Cooley’s ingesting and that Cooley had hurled a bottle at her, she mentioned. After practically a yr of escalating aggression, Burns had fled their dwelling in Wales, distraught and afraid.

However as an alternative of responding to guard her security or maintain Cooley accountable, Cooley’s superiors appeared to attend. It was the beginning of a weeks-long means of Burns making an attempt to get the state police to take her allegations critically.

Forty-two days handed after Burns first reported Cooley throwing the bottle, and no less than 12 days handed after she mentioned she reported Cooley hitting her, earlier than an officer referred the matter to an outdoor investigator. In late June, state police once more didn’t dispatch a police officer or alert 911 when Burns reported that Cooley, apparently drunk, despatched his spouse an image of a gun and threatened to shoot up her son’s belongings.

“No one was listening. No one cares,” she mentioned. “If I had died in this whole situation, no one would have known because only I have the information I have.”

Her account offers a uncommon look into the state police’s dealing with of a report of home violence amongst its ranks and illuminates how even extreme misconduct may be saved out of public data and, due to this fact, the general public eye. The Bangor Each day Information and Portland Press Herald uncovered Cooley’s case as a part of a joint investigation into the Maine State Police’s secretive dealing with of officer misconduct.

Burns supplied tons of of textual content messages, name logs and textual content logs, and greater than 90 minutes of audio recordings that again up her allegations of violence and a sluggish police response. A buddy whom Burns confided in corroborated components of Burns’ account.

Had officers examined her proof, they could have discovered purpose to cost Cooley with a criminal offense as early as her first report on Could 24, 2019. It will be one other 76 days earlier than he was charged with home violence assault, in a felony case that’s nonetheless pending. Solely when Burns confirmed a trooper the textual content from Cooley by which he admitted to hitting her did state police take steps to start out a felony investigation.

Even then, Burns felt as if the company allowed the ordeal to be closed quietly, with no public accountability. The state police didn’t fireplace Cooley. Actually it didn’t self-discipline Cooley in any respect, which might have left a public report of his conduct. He resigned, and state police redacted a lot of his resignation letter. An inside investigation into whether or not Cooley’s supervisors mishandled the scenario was inconclusive, but it surely’s not potential to know what they mentioned because the investigative report isn’t public. The company didn’t self-discipline the supervisors.

Different public data, drawn from paperwork on the Maine Legal Justice Academy, which licenses officers, focuses on Cooley’s actions, not these of others within the state police. Neither the state police, academy nor the courtroom publicly documented Burns’ emotions of being disregarded, or that weeks elapsed between her first report and the time Cooley was charged with home violence.

Burns took the weird step of talking publicly as a result of she mentioned it might be the one approach to handle the Maine State Police’s tradition of silence.

Col. John Cote, the chief of the state police, declined to answer Burns’ assertions that Cooley’s supervisors did not rapidly begin a felony investigation, citing personnel confidentiality legal guidelines. However all troopers know they need to report potential misconduct of their friends as quickly as they study of it, Cote mentioned.

“I do not believe the anecdotal ‘code of silence’ is a problem within the State Police. Our members value the trust of the citizens we serve and would not allow misconduct to go unaddressed,” Cote mentioned in an attorney-approved written response to questions.

However the secretive means of disciplining officers means it’s practically unimaginable for Burns or the general public to know whether or not an inside investigation into Cooley’s supervisors was honest and thorough.

“The problem with this is they are not accountable to anybody,” Burns mentioned. “If [Cooley] was a normal citizen, things would have turned out a whole lot different. But he wasn’t.”

Via his legal professional, Allan Lobozzo, Cooley declined an interview request.

Talking on Cooley’s behalf, Lobozzo mentioned Burns didn’t initially report Cooley hitting her. However Cooley is planning to plead responsible to 1 rely of home violence assault, Lobozzo mentioned. A plea listening to is deliberate for April 28 in Androscoggin County Superior Court docket.

Lobozzo had entry to Cooley’s personnel file, together with the investigation into whether or not Burns’ report was dealt with correctly, however he declined to debate particular allegations and the way the state police responded.

“It’s clear her reports evolved with the telling,” Lobozzo mentioned. “When she initially talked to the state police, she didn’t disclose an assault at all. She asked for help for her husband.”

Complaints towards police are confidential in Maine, and the state police don’t publicize inside affairs statistics. In contrast to in different states, police in Maine routinely cease inside investigations if an officer resigns, which means the information of any case is probably not documented — a possible drawback for future employers conducting background checks on regulation enforcement hires.

Combating public doubts in regards to the police self-discipline course of requires demonstrated, constant transparency, mentioned Luther Reynolds, who has made public accountability a precedence since he turned chief of the police division in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2018.

“We talk about transparency, but talk is cheap,” mentioned Reynolds, who releases annual inside affairs information, trains officers to carry one another accountable and publicizes when he fires officers. “Frankly, [people are] tired of talking, and, as a nation, they’ve made that known.”

There are a number of methods the state’s largest police pressure ensures the interior affairs course of is “fair and conducted appropriately,” mentioned Cote, the chief. For example, inside affairs operations are scrutinized by the state’s Bureau of Human Assets, and troopers have the suitable to pursue mediation and arbitration beneath their union contract.

However there isn’t any unbiased, exterior evaluation of the interior affairs course of, leaving lawmakers, complainants, researchers, civil rights teams and the general public at midnight.

‘Dramatics’

Former Trooper Justin “Jay” Cooley is pictured in 2014. Credit score: Courtesy of the Maine State Police Fb web page

Burns and Cooley bonded over a love of working canines and the outside, marrying in 2018. It wasn’t lengthy after they purchased a home collectively in Wales that Burns seen Cooley getting drunk at sudden instances, she mentioned. Quickly his ingesting took over his days off, and the peace of their new marriage evaporated.

Throughout his days off, Cooley drank and adopted Burns round the home, berating her for failing as a mum or dad to her then-22-year-old son who lived with them, she mentioned. One evening within the spring of 2019, as they sat in mattress arguing, she mentioned Cooley grabbed her wrist and twisted it. On three mornings she will be able to keep in mind, Cooley pulled a gun on her whereas she stood within the kitchen. When she recoiled, he performed it off as a joke, she mentioned.

Deb Delano, a former coworker of Burns’, mentioned Burns instructed her round June 2019 that Cooley had pointed a gun at her.

“I mentioned, ‘Yeah, you need to get out,” said Delano, of Phippsburg. “That’s not enjoying.”

In early Could, Cooley got here again to the home, enraged over a minor dispute with a neighbor. Burns was sitting close to the entrance door, and Cooley slammed his hand down on the highest of her head, she mentioned.

She fled the home and texted Cooley. As a substitute of apologizing, Cooley lashed out. “Dramatics,” Cooley texted her on Could 11, 2019. “I hit you on top of the head Amy out of frustration. Come on Moron.”

Two weeks later he erupted once more. After ingesting with a buddy for hours, Cooley got here to mattress after midnight on Could 24, 2019, Burns mentioned. They started to argue, sitting up in mattress at midnight. Burns recorded him on her cellphone. She wished to indicate him how ridiculous he sounded when he was drunk, she mentioned.

Between 1:44 a.m. and three:16 a.m., Burns recorded 14 movies spanning greater than 90 minutes of verbal assaults. Cooley shouted and mocked Burns when she tried to reply. When Burns acquired off the bed to go away, Cooley threw a bottle, she mentioned. It struck the door because it closed behind her, a second not recorded on video.

Burns knew she wanted assist. When the solar got here up, she known as Cooley’s troop commander, Lt. Kyle Tilsley. Burns mentioned she is definite she instructed Tilsley about Cooley’s ingesting and in regards to the bottle he threw. She doesn’t keep in mind whether or not she instructed Tilsley about Cooley hitting her. However what she wished most was for the ingesting and conduct to cease.

“Tilsley said unless his drinking actually interferes with his work, they can’t do anything about it,” Burns mentioned.

State police coverage requires supervisors to right away report up the chain of command any indicators of home violence throughout the ranks. When the colonel learns of potential home violence, he should provoke an investigation, whether or not felony, inside or each. Investigating officers are taught to protect proof as rapidly as potential to stop tampering or coercion.

Suspected officers “must be treated in the same manner as any other DV suspect,” the coverage states. These investigating “shall respond to the victim in a manner that assures her or him that the case will be investigated and handled thoroughly and professionally.”

The following day, Could 25, 2019, Cooley’s sergeant, Dan Hanson, texted Burns. It’s unclear what data Tilsley had shared with him.

“Was checking in to see how you are doing,” Hanson wrote.

“It’s been a rough couple days,” she mentioned.

Textual content messages present that Hanson didn’t point out investigating Cooley or calling in an outdoor investigator. Burns mentioned they solely texted that day; they didn’t converse on the telephone. It’s not recognized what Hanson did behind the scenes, however he didn’t inform Burns he was forwarding the criticism to his superiors or ask any questions on what had occurred, Burns mentioned. He didn’t provide to attach her with a home violence company. He didn’t inquire about weapons in the home.

‘They never dispatched anyone’

Over the subsequent month, Burns started to expertise unexplained well being issues and went to Massachusetts Common Hospital in Boston for exams. Together with his spouse hours away, Cooley acted out towards Burns’ grownup son, who has an mental incapacity and wasn’t working.

Utilizing his cellphone, Cooley filmed himself strolling up the steps into her son’s room at dwelling in Wales on June 23, 2019. He despatched Burns the video.

“Somebody thought they could live in my house and do nothing, and do nothing, when I did everything,” Cooley mentioned. “OK … you’re done.”

Then he tore a pc from the wall and dumped two displays on the ground. “Best of luck, brah,” he mentioned. “Done.”

At 8:33 p.m., Cooley despatched Burns an image of her son’s laptop displays standing up within the yard.

A photograph Justin Cooley despatched to his then-wife June 23, 2019, when he threatened to shoot her son’s laptop displays. Credit score: Courtesy of Amy Burns

“I’ll send a pic to [your son],” Cooley wrote. “Think I god damn care? I’m done bro.”

At 8:34 p.m., Cooley despatched one other photograph. It confirmed a Glock-style handgun on the again deck. The displays stood within the background.

“I ain’t joking,” Cooley wrote. “Monitors are getting shot bro … Wanna see??? I’ll face time.”

Overwhelmed and terrified, Burns known as Cooley’s sergeant, Hanson. She instructed him that, at that second, Cooley was drunk, armed and making threats at their home in Wales, she mentioned. She later discovered the displays smashed.

“I told [Hanson] everything that was going on,” Burns mentioned, together with that Cooley had beforehand hit her on the top.

“I had evidence. I had video. I had texts. You’d think at that point, if there was a drunk man with a gun, they’d dispatch someone. But they never dispatched anyone.”

State police confirmed there was no report of police being dispatched to the house.

Although Cooley’s actions that day would later assist type the premise for felony prices, at that second Hanson responded solely with an assurance that the company had discovered a rehabilitation program for Cooley in Florida to handle his ingesting.

Through the dialog, Hanson didn’t handle Burns’ stories of Cooley’s violence or his threats to shoot up her son’s belongings, she mentioned.

The state police’s home violence coverage permits the company to supply “non-punitive avenues of assistance” to officers to attempt to cease their misconduct. However remedy for habit shouldn’t come on the expense of the police pressure’s obligation to handle home violence as a criminal offense, mentioned Diane Wetendorf, a Chicago-based advocate for victims who has spent 30 years researching home abuse by cops.

Since 1996, anybody convicted of a home violence crime is prohibited from having firearms, spelling profession demise for a cop. So when police select to handle solely the ingesting, they’ll probably forestall extra critical skilled penalties for his or her colleague, mentioned Wetendorf, who helped advise the FBI within the Nineties on the way to handle abuse by police and formed mannequin insurance policies used throughout the nation right now.

After a Boston nurse heard Cooley screaming at Burns via the telephone, a hospital social employee came visiting her in her room, Burns mentioned. It was June 24, 2019. They talked for hours, and Burns made a plan to go away the connection.

Amy Burns is pictured March 4 at her dwelling in Wales. Credit score: Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald

When she spoke with Hanson later that day, the very first thing she instructed him was that she deliberate to file for a safety from abuse order.

As a substitute of initiating an investigation, nevertheless, she mentioned Hanson sounded shocked. “He said something to the effect of, ‘Wait, wait, wait,’ or ‘Just a minute,’” Burns mentioned. “He said basically, ‘Wait, he’s going to rehab.’”

How or when a report of a criminal offense reaches cops mustn’t change their accountability to deal with it as a probably lethal scenario, mentioned Sagadahoc County home violence investigator Steve Edmondson.

“Whose ever desk it lands on, whether it’s another officer or a supervisor, it needs to go up the food chain immediately with no hesitancy,” mentioned Edmondson, who was not concerned with Cooley’s case. “It will create hard feelings, but it has to happen. Because lives are in danger.”

Burns didn’t name 911 straight as a result of she was afraid, she mentioned. She thought telling Cooley’s supervisors ought to have been sufficient to carry Cooley accountable.

Her son requested twice about calling 911, “and Jay lost his mind. He said we were threatening him. I guess I could have done it behind his back. It was mentioned a couple times, and he went berserk,” she mentioned.

‘I just wish we could have gotten him help’

On June 29, 2019, with Cooley in a Florida rehabilitation heart, Hanson got here by the Wales home to choose up Cooley’s cruiser and weapons. Burns once more provided to indicate him her texts and video proof, however she recalled Hanson declining to take it. Lastly, on July 5, 2019, Burns forwarded a few of Cooley’s textual content messages to Hanson from earlier in Could, when he talked about hitting her.

Hanson instructed her to do what she felt was most secure for her.

“The position you’re in is not an easy one,” Hanson texted her. “I can not give you advice as it could be viewed as tampering since I’m his supervisor. I just wish we could have got him help before it got as bad as it did.”

When she instructed him once more — this time in a written textual content message — that she was submitting for a safety from abuse order, his tone appeared to shift, and he mentioned he would alert the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Workplace. The sheriff’s workplace confirmed it acquired the referral from the state police that day. Eleven days had handed since she had been within the hospital and first instructed Hanson in a telephone name that she deliberate to file for the no-contact order.

“Where you have indicated you want to pursue a PFA and have made reference to an assault you should consider contacting Androscoggin County. It’s completely your decision but I will still be contacting them in regards to it since you have advised me of it,” Hanson texted.

Inside quarter-hour, Burns’ telephone rang. It was a sheriff’s deputy. Quickly she was related with Troy Younger, an investigator with the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Workplace who focuses on home violence.

In a short telephone interview this month, Hanson declined to speak about Cooley, citing Cooley’s ongoing felony case by which Hanson could also be known as as a witness.

“I will tell you that at the point in time that abuse was alleged, a complaint was made,” Hanson mentioned. “I made a complaint, and that’s that. This is an active case. It’s in the court system right now.”

Hanson declined to reply questions, mentioned it was inappropriate for a reporter to name him on his cellphone on his day without work, and hung up.

Tilsley additionally declined to answer particular questions on Burns’ allegations.

Younger, the sheriff’s workplace investigator, took her allegations critically from the beginning, Burns mentioned. She filed for a safety from abuse order on July 8, 2019. Younger charged Cooley with home violence assault Aug. 8, 2019, whereas he was out of state.

Former Maine State Police Trooper Justin Cooley’s mug shot. Credit score: Courtesy of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Workplace

The next month, the fees elevated with a second rely of home violence assault and one rely of home violence stalking.

By the tip of August, Burns filed for divorce. She additionally filed an inside criticism towards Hanson and Tilsley for mishandling her stories of home violence.

Cooley didn’t go on go away till October 2019. He resigned in January 2020, in response to his redacted employment data, which contained no point out of the felony proceedings towards him.

The academy revoked his potential to be a police officer in Maine efficient Sept. 15, 2020, discovering there was sufficient proof to conclude he had assaulted his spouse.

State police coverage requires the company to report back to the felony justice academy when an officer is called in a safety order. However there isn’t any point out of the no-contact order in Cooley’s academy case.

State police ought to have made the primary notification to the academy by Aug. 7, 2019. Public data present it notified the academy 54 days later, after Cooley made his first courtroom look.

“It is absolutely critical to all of our safety that law enforcement do what they say they’re going to do,” mentioned Francine Garland Stark, government director of the Maine Coalition to Finish Home Violence. “If you’ve got a policy that says you’re going to do right by victims, even if it’s harm caused by one of your own, then you need to do that.”

‘Who failed?’

Burns felt the state police inside affairs investigation pitted her phrase towards Tilsley and Hanson, and hinged on her perceived credibility.

Throughout Burns’ first interview with an investigator from the Workplace of Skilled Requirements, she mentioned Cooley had pointed his gun at her. The investigator stopped her from persevering with, Burns mentioned. He was there solely to ask about Tilsley and Hanson. An inside evaluation of Cooley would wait till later, she mentioned she was instructed.

However, in a subsequent telephone dialog with Lt. Anna Love, who’s in control of inside investigations, Love requested Burns why she had not instructed Love sooner that Cooley had pointed his weapon at her. It was exasperating, Burns mentioned.

In November 2019, Love emailed Burns to say her allegation that Tilsley and Hanson had mishandled her criticism of home violence was “not sustained.” It meant that, in response to the state police, there was not sufficient proof to show or disprove her criticism.

However Burns can’t know what the 2 officers instructed investigators. With no exterior audits or oversight, the general public has no possibility however to belief the division to police itself.

“Who failed? Tilsley, Hanson and Anna Love. So they all did,” she mentioned. “The state police are accountable to no one but themselves.”

Bangor Each day Information reporter Callie Ferguson and Bangor Each day Information editor Erin Rhoda contributed to this report.

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