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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