OUPD Look To Change Policies After Canterbury Case

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While an Ohio University Police Department investigation led to DNA evidence that helped convict Levi Canterbury on two counts of rape, the investigation also recognized a need for some policy changes within the department.

Canterbury, 23, of Gallipolis, was found guilty last week of raping an intoxicated Ohio University student. A member of the National Guard, Canterbury picked up the student in September of 2011, drove her to a parking lot, raped her and dropped her off near campus. He is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday and faces a maximum of 11 years in prison.

During the trial, three OUPD officers testified — including lead investigator Lt. Tim Ryan — that recording devices had not been used or had failed during the investigation.

“It wasn’t my practice then,” Ryan said on the stand when asked why he didn’t record an interview with the victim of the crime. “It is now.”

OUPD Chief Andrew Powers said since the Canterbury incident, the department has sought guidance from the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office in how to change its policy on recording interviews.

“We don’t really have a policy beyond the prosecutor’s guidance,” Powers said, adding that now the department records every interview with suspects and complaining witnesses.

Assistant County Prosecutor Meg Saunders said prosecutors met with OUPD when a plea deal was being discussed for Canterbury in 2012 and talked about changing the way interviews were done.

“This was an exemplary case of why victims and suspects need to have recorded interviews,” Saunders said. “They’ve done a good job with the new policy.”

Saunders said the prosecutor’s office also told OUPD that if investigators don’t have the equipment with them to record a suspect or victim, they should try to get the person to come back to the station if possible to conduct the interview there.

Saunders and the department also addressed a “battery failure” that had happened during Ryan’s interview with Canterbury, causing the recording to cut out after eight minutes. In Canterbury’s testimony, he claimed that after the recording stopped investigators became “accusatory.” Canterbury called one detective “gruff” and “borderline rude.”

“Nobody knew the recording had stopped,” Powers said. “They were engaged in the interview and didn’t realize. It was a newer recorder, so it wasn’t something where they could see the tape stop rolling or anything like that.”

Although Det. Michael Swearingen testified that the batteries on the recording device died during the interview, Ryan testified that he had checked the batteries on the device before he began recording, and that the faulty device has now been discarded.