A 24-year-old former Columbia police crime analyst who was involved in secret recordings of high-ranking officers’ conversations did not resign by her own choice last month, her attorneys said.
Attorneys Lewis Cromer and Paul Porter said they represent Bridget Caffery in potential claims against the city of Columbia in her forced resignation and other events in which she was involved.
“Ms. Caffery is a 24-year-old female whose first job after graduating from the University of South Carolina was working for the City of Columbia,” the attorneys wrote in their statement. “She performed excellently as a crime analyst, an important law enforcement function, as indicated by her performance evaluations and personnel file.
“Once a complete investigation is performed and the full story is made public, we are confident that you will find that Ms. Caffery is herself a victim in this matter in her dealings with the City of Columbia; with former Police Chief Randy Scott, who is more than 20 years her senior; and with the other players involved,” the lawyers wrote in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Caffery, who resigned from the department in February, was a central figure in the FBI and SLED investigation into corruption allegations against interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago.
Caffery had audio recordings of conversations between her bosses stored in her laptop computer.
One recording was of a 20-minute phone conversation between Santiago and former Capt. David Navarro. Caffery told investigators from the FBI and SLED that she had downloaded the recording from Scott’s department-issued iPad. She and Scott were in a relationship when he was chief.
In a 405-page investigative report released Wednesday, it was revealed that Caffery first handed over a seven-minute version of that call. After investigators performed an exam on her laptop, they found a 22-minute version.
Investigators also said Santiago knew about the 22-minute version but also had led investigators to believe the shorter version was the only one that existed.
Caffery admitted altering the recording but said Santiago had told her “he did not need the entire recording, just a portion of it. He told her something to the effect of ‘Don’t make me look bad,’” the report said. She told investigators that it was her decision to edit the recording to remove derogatory remarks about another officer and some of Santiago’s profanity.
The second secret conversation found on Caffery’s laptop involved a discussion between her, Santiago and Navarro. The conversation, which lasts an hour and a half, included a discussion of Scott’s personal problems and a dispute between Santiago and Navarro over Navarro’s new assignment in the department.
Caffery told investigators she had recorded that conversation to prove to Scott that she was not doing anything to harm him, the SLED report said.
Both recordings were released as part of the investigation.
In December, Caffery was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence. In video footage of the arrest from a state trooper’s car, Caffery asks the officer if he would call Santiago or Scott on her behalf. The trooper did not, and Caffery was booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
The investigation into Santiago and Navarro was launched in July after Navarro claimed Santiago had asked him to participate in a “black ops” scheme to frame another city official. The alleged plan was to steal a gun and drugs from a crime scene and plant them in assistant city manager Allison Baker’s car so Scott, Santiago and Navarro could move up the ranks.
However, Santiago denied the allegations, saying Navarro was trying to retaliate because he was unhappy with a new assignment within the department. Santiago asked SLED to investigate Navarro for mishandling money and illegally shredding documents.
A special prosecutor assigned to review the case announced last week he would not press charges against either man.
The criminal case is closed. But the investigation’s impact on the department is not over. City manager Teresa Wilson has said she is reviewing the complete file to decide her next step.
The investigative report also sheds light on the atmosphere within the Police Department, where officers worked amid distrust, suspicion and rumors.
On Thursday, Caffery’s attorneys asked the media to contact them with questions about Caffery.
Caffery is “doing her best to start a new chapter in her young career and life,” the attorneys’ statement said.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.