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Obituary, Death: Rodney Vicknair, a NOPD police officer from New Orleans who molested a teenager by the name of “Nicole,” passed away terribly

Mar 15, 2024
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The 14-year-old said that she did not want to go to the emergency room. Her mother had asked for something. Her therapist had prodded her gently. She looked around her home area and saw a law enforcement officer. “You really ought to give it some serious thought,” he said.

Officer Rodney Vicknair was the one who gave the crowd his introduction. His New Orleans police vehicle was waiting for him outside, ready to take her to the hospital so she could pick up a rape kit. The girl said that early that morning, a seventeen-year-old friend had forced himself on her. A case like this was supposed to be handled from the start by a detective with training in sexual crimes or child abuse, according to police department standards. On this specific May day in 2020, however, it was Vicknair, a patrol officer with a questionable past, who knocked on the child’s door.

He tried to get her to change her mind about what she had decided. His body camera was filming the interview when Vicknair said, “If I am a young man who has done something wrong to a young lady and she does not follow up and press the issue, then I am going to go out and do it to another young lady.” The girl did not want that. Vicknair said, “And it’s going to be worse, that’s for sure, the next time because I’m going to think to myself, ‘Oh, I got the power.'” “I can go even further this time.” She just wanted this to be over and done with.

She had no idea that this was just the beginning. The guy who had molested the child sexually was taken into custody by the authorities at the conclusion of the fourth month. However, it wouldn’t be her high school buddy. The person who would do it would be Officer Rodney Vicknair. The court’s charges include that the day the 14-year-old met 53-year-old Vicknair, the policeman reportedly started a grooming process that would extend for many months. Vicknair supported the girl with his arm and snapped a photo with her only hours after they first met. He let her to use his police baton for play. He showed her many pictures of a young lady wearing just underwear and joked playfully about “whipping your behind.”

The problem of sexual misconduct by adults with access to and influence over minors, including teachers, clergy, coaches, and others, has prompted the United States of America to face up to it. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of knowledge about sexual offenses committed against minors by law enforcement officials, a profession that many children are taught to respect and adhere to. The Post’s research indicates that between 2005 and 2022, at least 1,800 state and local police officers were charged with crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors.

Very few of the policemen accused of abusing minors by raping, fondling, and taking advantage of them had any relationship to the victims. They most often targeted girls between the ages of 13 and 15, and they often met their victims through their places of employment. John D. Harden, a data reporter for the Washington Post, in collaboration with Bowling Green State University in Ohio, created and analyzed a data set comprising at least 1,800 police officers who have been charged with offenses involving the sexual abuse of minors. The Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database, based in Bowling Green, keeps track of officers whose alleged crimes are discovered, who are arrested, and whose accusations are reported in news articles.

Through an unprecedented review of the nation’s largest database of police arrests, housed at Bowling Green State University, The Post was able to identify these cops. The Post also went through hundreds of court filings, police decertification records, and news articles. Law enforcement officials arranged for children to be left alone in every single case, made a concerted attempt to win over parents and guardians, and threatened to take action if they were discovered to have broken their silence. Unlike schoolteachers and priests, they were able to achieve all of this while using the power of their badges and weaponry.

Chuck Wexler, the head of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization that focuses on public policy and law enforcement training, called the amount of officers charged with these charges “very troubling.” Law enforcement agencies have, for the most part, treated child sexual abuse as an isolated issue that goes away when an officer is fired or prosecuted, rather than as an ongoing risk that necessitates systemic change. Wexler states, “Anything we can do to prevent this and hold those accountable will help restore the trust that people have in the police departments.” In contrast, a lot of educational institutions and religious organizations have created procedures and guidelines aimed at getting rid of predators.

Police officers who are accused of abusing minors sexually are not able to use a national monitoring system. There are no uniform standards to screen for potential offenders at a time when police agencies around the nation are keen to acquire new officers due to a manpower deficit. There are instances in which police officers are allowed to go on with their duties while their colleagues officers conduct probes into their actions. When there is a suspicion of abuse, this happens.

Child sexual abuse is an issue that has previously existed inside the New Orleans Police Department. The city recently paid $300,000 to resolve a lawsuit it had filed in the 1980s about its Police Explorers program, which was run by a lieutenant accused of sexually abusing 10 boys. During the course of the investigation into this case, the person in command of the juvenile sex crimes section of the New Orleans Police Department was also found guilty of child sex crimes in 1987.

Two police officers who were accused of abusing minor girls remained on the job in more recent years in spite of growing scrutiny. They then proceeded to sexually abuse additional kids. Six New Orleans Police Department officers have been convicted guilty of crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors since 2011. Vicknair is the newest business. The facts of his case serve as an example of the larger difficulties police departments have in conducting background investigations, identifying warning indicators, and handling claims of improper activity. The Post was able to piece together what happened in New Orleans by analyzing hundreds of internal law enforcement records, hours of video, and dozens of texts.

Vicknair was hired in 2007 despite having a criminal background that includes many arrests and a conviction for child abuse. He had a second officer with him when he had his sexy conversations with the female he drove to the hospital, but these were not reported to superiors in the department. He went to the girl’s house many times in the summer of 2020, telling the recently recruited police officers to stay in the car while he went inside by himself. Additionally, administrators at the agency let Vicknair to stay on the job for a week until the issues raised by the complaint about his conduct were addressed. The child said it was the week that Vicknair had sexually assaulted her.

When contacted by phone the year before, Vicknair refused to comment on this matter. He pleaded guilty in November 2022 to the accusation of infringing the girl’s civil rights. He acknowledged that while she was still wearing her clothing, he had sexually assaulted her and locked her in his vehicle. Furthermore, the city of New Orleans and its police department refused to speak with The Post about the issue, stating that they expected legal action to follow. The victim and her mother sued the city and its police superintendent at the federal level in 2021. Both towns were the target of the lawsuit.

The city has always refuted in court filings that the maltreatment of the child was caused by the police department. A jury will hear the case soon. The city has maintained that Vicknair was not on duty during the assault, to which he entered a guilty plea, and that he was not acting on behalf of the New Orleans Police Department “while performing any of the inappropriate actions alleged against him.” A trial on what the girl owes the New Orleans Police Department, if anything, was scheduled to start on March 18.

Her adolescent years had been spent in a range of places, including a hospital for self-harm, a sanctuary for victims of domestic violence with her mother, and a place where she and her parents fought over custody after their divorce. It was her idea that all adults only wanted to tell her what to do. However, after persuading Nicole to visit the emergency hospital, Vicknair remained with her and her mother for a substantial length of time, giving Nicole the idea that he was interested in listening to her. He told her, “If you ever just want to shoot, talk, or text me,” that his body camera was still recording. “You are having issues, and you just need somebody to talk to,” he said. I’ll stop over and chat to you if I’m working, okay?We’re going to have some ice cream at McDonald’s or another place, so let’s chat about it.

Nicole had stored Vicknair’s phone number on her phone under the name “Officer Rodney.” Vicknair lifted his phone and aimed the camera he was using at her downward just before leaving, saying, “Now hit call so I know it’s you and I can save you as a contact.” Her legs were dangling as she lay on the hospital bed. Nicole raised her hand to block his line of sight and protested, “No.” Either way, the photo was taken by Vicknair. “There we go,” he said, “and I love it.”

Nicole had just turned one year old when Vicknair applied for the position that would eventually enable him to work with her and other kids. Vicknair did not resemble the typical police recruit when he applied to join the New Orleans Police Department in 2006. He said, “I genuinely enjoy being of assistance and serving the community,” and “I have always wanted to be a police officer in New Orleans.” He had worked in a hospital as a security guard and as an emergency medical technician, but he was about to become forty, too old to be admitted into some departments at that point. He weighed in at 237 pounds and was 5 feet 11 inches tall. Throughout his life, he had tremors that often caused his hands to tremble.

But after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New Orleans Police Department was in shambles when Vicknair filed his application. There was intense external scrutiny and low morale inside the department as a result of the public uproar over the officers’ actions. Recruiters needed to know who would be willing to take on the badge. The Department of Justice claims that the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) began reducing recruitment standards and implementing less rigorous background checks. Vicknair’s knife and pistol were taken by law enforcement authorities before he was taken to prison due to the “potential for future violence, as well as threats made by Mr. Vicknair in the presence of deputies,” according to a police report that was part of his background check.

The event was not the only one, nor was it the first time Vicknair had faced serious charges. He was convicted of simple assault on a kid in Ascension Parish in 1987. He withheld this aspect of his past from the New Orleans Police Department. He was ordered to serve 10 days of probation or pay a fifty dollar fine. Vicknair was charged with the crime after what they said was a sexual contact with a minor. Vicknair was 20 years of age. The girl, whose name The Post withholds, was involved when she was a preteen. She did not respond to requests for an interview.

There is no indication that the background investigator looked into the simple battery conviction since he didn’t seem to be aware of its existence. The background investigator noted in his notes that Vicknair had no criminal history with the Ascension Parish police department, even though The Post was able to get a copy of the court’s verdict.

He received a promotion in 2016 that made it possible for him to train young police officers while on patrol in the area where he would later meet Nicole. After the swabbing operation was over, Nicole stopped hyperventilating, and she stayed in the hospital to make sure she didn’t hurt herself, she was released from the hospital. She now phoned Officer Vicknair’s number. Vicknair, for instance, texted the 14-year-old on May 26, 2020, stating, “Let me know when I’m back home and I’ll come check on you.” The first night he had met her, he had started texting her with a GIF of a dog wagging its tail.

After that, he began to consistently show up at her home in uniform. This went on for a few weeks. He used to sip on a Dr Pepper while discussing the newest news articles on Fox News. He would teach Nicole a valuable lesson about staying out of trouble. Nicole’s mother Rayne watched the whole thing. only protect Nicole’s privacy, Rayne—who The Post is referring only by her first name—grew up with a grandpa who worked as a sheriff’s deputy. The same unflinching trust that she had in law enforcement, she instilled in her daughter.

When Rayne learned that the officer—who was 53 years old at the time—was talking to her daughter on the phone late at night that summer, she didn’t think anything of it. Nicole was grateful that she was finally opening up to someone after being reluctant and reclusive in the weeks that followed the news of her sexual assault. Someone who could set an example for others. She would add, “Oh, Mom, I had the best conversation with Rodney last night.” “It was really incredible.” “He is very compassionate,” Rayne remembered.

Vicknair was showing interest in her child, but the New Orleans Police Department’s first reaction was entirely different. Two more patrol officers were the first to be sent to Rayne’s house on May morning after she saw her daughter sitting on the sofa with her 17-year-old friend. This was in reaction to an allegation of an attempted rape inside her home. It was five twenty-one in the morning. The teenage kid was already on his way out. The officers were at the house for eleven minutes, according to the documents, before leaving. It seemed as if they didn’t do anything more.

Their answer was exactly what the federal government had been trying to get the New Orleans Police Department to do better for years. As part of the cooperation agreement entered in 2012, Justice Department investigators learned that police were often handling allegations of sexual assault improperly. After several years, the Special Victims Unit of the New Orleans Police Department remained understaffed and overworked. The investigations carried out by the department were characterized by “extremely weak” characteristics, such as “poor victim questioning skills,” incomplete or missing documentation, and little efforts to contact witnesses or interrogate suspects. In 2022, the unit resolved three percent of the cases, according to a report recently provided by the Department of Justice.

Many hours had passed after the first cops had left Nicole’s home when her therapist phoned a second time to report the attack. Vicknair proceeded to her house with two other patrol officers from the New Orleans Police Department. Then Kimberly Wilson arrived, a victim-focused specialist investigator. She was with Nicole for a total of four minutes when Nicole claimed that she had to go because she needed to go someplace else, according to body camera video. She drove Vicknair and a second police officer to the hospital, where she sat with the adolescent. Wilson did not interview Nicole until two days later, even though he paid her a visit later that day.

Nicole said, “I told him to stop,” referring to the 17-year-old kid. He never decided to comment on Wilson’s probe; all he said was, “No, let me get it over with.” The case file has no information on whether or if the crime lab looked at Nicole’s rape kit’s DNA, and there is no indication that Wilson ever spoke with the 17-year-old. But instead of getting far with her case, Nicole had visits from Vicknair.

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