Township Officials Apologize

It’s not often that government officials apologize for mistakes, but we saw an example this week when Meridian Township officials apologized for mishandling a complaint of sexual assault in 2004. The township, which lies adjacent to East Lansing, is governed by Manager Frank Walsh and a board of trustees, all of whom met yesterday along with Township Police Chief Dave Hall for a news conference to apologize publicly to Brianne Randall-Gay, who filed a complaint with Meridian Township police in 2004 after being molested by Dr. Larry Nassar during a medical exam.

Manager Walsh and Police Chief Hall described the errors their police department made in 2004. After Ms. Randall-Gay, age 17 at the time, filed her complaint, she was asked to submit to a rape kit procedure, which she did (although one wonders how a rape kit would provide any evidence to her claims of digital penetration and touching her breasts). Township Police Detective Andrew McCready then interviewed Dr. Nassar, who persuaded McCready, by the use of medical reports and a power point presentation, that Nassar’s treatment was medically viable. So the detective dismissed the complaint, telling Ms. Randall-Gay that the police could not force Nassar to follow medical protocols such as wearing gloves and having an adult present when he performed this “medical procedure.” Nassar, of course, went on to molest scores of other girls before he was arrested in 2016.

Meridian Township’s apology is notable for several reasons. They were the ones who initiated the phonecall to Ms. Randall-Gay. She said it was a phonecall she had “waited 14 years for.” The Township could have chosen not to go public with its apology; the manager said they had not received any legal advice on whether or how to do this public apology, but felt it was the right thing to do.

They followed up their words with actions: the Township paid to fly Ms. Randall-Gay from her home in Seattle so she could attend Nassar’s sentencing hearing in Lansing last month and give a victim impact statement. Apparently Manager Walsh attended portions of that hearing and talked with Ms. Randall-Gay outside the courtroom. And yesterday they announced several other planned actions: they have invited Ms. Randall-Gay to help them develop a program to help children understand criminal sexual conduct and how to report it; they are reviewing all other sexual abuse complaints from the last twenty years to see if other cases should have gone forward; they will provide extra training for their police officers regarding sexual assault; and the police chief will now sign off on all sexual assault cases.

A cynic might say the Township is initiating all these actions to stave off a lawsuit. But it doesn’t sound like any other entity initiated an apology with a Nassar victim, a fact which deepened the victims’ wounds. A sincere, well-timed apology can indeed prevent a lawsuit—and can do much more besides.

 

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