Allegations of sexual abuse at a group home co-owned and run by Greensboro police Deputy Chief James Hinson calls into question whether there was a cover-up of the incident at a time when Hinson is potentially in the running for the department’s top position.

A recent report by the state Division of Health Service
Regulation uncovered allegations of sexual abuse against at least one minor at
Center of Progressive Strides, a group home co-owned and run by Greensboro
police Deputy Chief James Hinson.

The report, dated July 31, goes into vivid detail about
allegations of sexual abuse by a former staff member at the group home, which
serves youth and adolescents under 21 years of age with mental-health issues. The
report lists eight counts of deficiencies on the part of the organization,
including failure to complete and submit an internal investigation into the
alleged acts, failure to have an adequate number of employees during each shift,
and failure to report the incidents to law enforcement or the county department
of social services as required by law. The report also includes contradictory accounts
between the agency and the victim’s mother regarding a signed statement that
the victim’s mother said was falsified by agency staff.

Hinson co-founded the group home in 2006 and runs the
facility with Vice President Kevin Chandler according to annual business
reports filed and signed by Chandler.

Hinson joined the police department in 1991 and commands the investigative bureau, which oversees the criminal investigations division. The branch includes the family victims unit which is in charge of investigating all cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse and crimes against juveniles.

The residential building that once housed the group home is currently vacant, according to the property owner. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

The report, which spans 54 pages and can be found in its
entirety online,
alleges that Hinson and Chandler dismissed the allegations brought forth by a
15-year-old male client who claims that a staff member sexually abused him on
two separate occasions. The victim is referred to as “client #2” in the report.

The report does not explicitly list the client or Hinson or
Chandler by name. However, the report repeatedly refers to a person listed as “Licensee
#1,” who holds the position of co-owner and president of the organization,
currently Hinson. “Licensee #2” is listed as the co-owner and vice president,
or Chandler.

Both Hinson and Chandler, who were reached by phone on
Monday, declined to comment for this story.

Additional persons referenced in the report include a “qualified professional,” or an unidentified former staff member who was hired by the group home in 2017 and as of July 31, no longer works for the company. The alleged abuser is listed as “former paraprofessional staff,” aka “FS #11,” in the report.

Allegations of sexual abuse

According to interviews in the report with the victim by staff
at the state Division of Health Service Regulation, the alleged abuser touched the
victim “around his leg and private area” while transporting him and another
client to drop off medication in High Point on May 17. According to interviews,
the victim was sitting in the front passenger seat and the former staff member
was driving when he was assaulted. A second unidentified client was sitting
behind the driver’s seat and corroborates the victim’s allegations, according
to the report. Two days later, the victim alleges, the former staff member
forced him to perform oral sex on him in the group home. According to the report,
the victim contacted his uncle and his grandmother and then his mother that
night and early into the hours of May 20 about the abuse. He also notified
another staff member, described in the report as a “qualified professional,”
who reportedly relayed the allegations to Hinson.

The report indicates that the victim told investigators that
Hinson said the staff member “did not do this, so you might as well drop the
charges.” The report goes on to say that Hinson and Chandler “both said ‘the
(police) don’t believe you downtown (at the police department) so you might as
well drop it.’”

The report notes that the victim knew that Hinson was a deputy
police chief and that he ran away from the group home after being told by
Hinson that he should “drop” the allegations.

Greensboro police Chief Deputy James Hinson testified before the US House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on July 25. (screengrab)

Hinson told investigators that he “[doesn’t] think this incident happened at all and nothing occurred criminally,” according to the report.

A cover-up?

The report also reveals that the victim’s mother was called
into the group home on May 20 where she met with Chandler, the staff member
described as a “qualified professional,” and the victim for seven hours.
According to the unidentified staff member, the mother signed a statement in
which she indicated that “she did not believe the allegations.” However, an
interview between the investigators and the victim’s mother reveals that the
agency may have falsified the statement.

The statement, which was written by the unidentified staff
member, states that the client’s mother didn’t believe her son’s allegations
and didn’t believe that further investigation was necessary. The statement also
notes that she didn’t want to call the police, noting that she believed that
the group home could handle the situation.

The statement also goes on to say that the group home will
be “documenting the incident and determine if [the accused employee] will
continue is (sic) employment with [the agency], but until further noticed he is
suspended. [The agency] management team believes that there was no criminal act
that took place but will still further investigate.”

However, an interview included in the report with the
victim’s mother on July 1 revealed that she “never signed a statement
indicating she did not believe that her son was sexually abused by [the accused
staff member].” In the report, the mother is quoted as saying, “I signed a
statement saying it needed to be investigated. I told them DSS (the Department
of Social Services) needed to be called. (I told them) I think this man [the
accused staff member] had inappropriate conversation with [the alleged victim]
and questioned if other things occurred.”

The report also indicates that a second employee referenced
only as “staff #9” was present on the evening of the second incident — in which
the victim was allegedly forced to perform oral sex on the abuser — and that
the victim approached that staff member almost immediately after the assault
took place.

The victim is quoted as saying, “I asked him (staff #9) what
if a staff member inappropriately touched me and he said who, [the alleged
abuser]? I didn’t have to tell him, he knew. It was not the first time [staff
#9] heard this from a kid in the group home.”

An interview with that staff member confirmed that the
victim spoke with him after he came in for his shift around midnight on May 20.

“He was telling me he felt uncomfortable around [the alleged
abuser] because he said something inappropriate to me,” the staff member states
in the report. The staff member went on to say that the alleged victim said
that the alleged abuser “was asking him… to pull out his penis or let him see
it or something like that.”

Now what?

Ron Glenn, the public information officer for the Greensboro Police Department, said that when the department received the report, Chief Wayne Scott requested that the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office take over the investigation.

On Wednesday, Jim Secor, the sheriff’s attorney, confirmed via email that the “Greensboro Police Department requested the Sheriff’s Office involvement so that the investigation would be conducted by an independent law enforcement agency.” The email continued by saying that the “Sheriff’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation at the request of GPD—not an internal affairs investigation—and any decision to initiate criminal charges against the employee will by made by the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office.”

The allegations about staff mishandling alleged sexual abuse
at Hinson’s agency come at a time when there are talks about who will take the
place of Chief Scott, who announced plans to retire in January.

Glenn said that he couldn’t comment on whether Hinson, who
is still employed with the GPD, would be applying for the position because the
vacancy hasn’t been posted yet.  

An employee with the Division of Health Service Regulation
noted on Tuesday that according to their records, the Center of Progressive
Strides is still open; their license is due to expire at the end of this year
and the business hasn’t renewed their application.

The group home, located on Glenside Drive in Greensboro, is
currently vacant according to Johnny Whitaker, who owns the property. Whitaker said
that Center of Progressive Strides moved out about two months ago and that a woman
who is a friend of Hinson and Chandler is planning to open a new group home in
the facility. The staff member said that the division has not received a new mental
health licensure application for the same location.

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