Cover Story: Shattered trust?

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The illegal immigrant who blew the whistle on former CMPD officer Marcus Jackson won't be deported.  Jackson allegedly molested the man's girlfriend,  then arrested him for being in this country illegally.

But now, he's been set free and all charges have been dropped.  His name is Abel Moreno. Thursday, he said being deported was his last concern when he called 9-1-1.

"I don't have papers or anything, so yes, I was scared, but in that moment I was worried about her well-being."

Moreno says he's working with his attorney right now to gain legal status in America.

Experts say this sort of public abuse of power can have a devastating impact on a community.

Along with the Jackson arrest, there are allegations of a Charlotte cop having sex at pizza restaurant over the weekend and that raises important questions about the "scope" of this problem.

The question on all of our minds is how widespread is this?  A good question but one that's very difficult to find out.

CMPD knows it has a problem with two officers recently accused of sex acts on women.  Are these isolated incidents.  How much goes on that we don't know about?

We know it's had a chilling effect especially on women.

"I definitely think I'd be a little more skeptical being pulled over. I'd definitely be a little more weary to get out of the car," says Austin Somers.

Echos Kay Townsend, "They're the people that you would turn to when you need help.. or that you trust and now it's like... hmmm there's one."

CMPD will say it's one or two rotten apples and it probably is.  But how can we know for sure?

We asked Dr. Vivian Lord, professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at UNC Charlotte to weigh in.  She says, "The police department is there to serve and protect citizens. That has been shattered."

Lord wrote a book about a decade ago on women policing, interviewed 200 veteran officers many from CMPD.

In the 80s she writes sexual harassment was rampant in the department and others across the country.  In the last 5-to-8 years it's changed.

"It was more common in the past," she says, "but as department's policies and practices have changed and really ratchet up their monitoring of this behavior it appears to be decreasing."

But she adds there's no way of knowing for sure it's one of those things that's not out in the open.

Research into police culture finds there is a mentality among some departments that boys will be boys.  Departments have realized this and are now asking officers to self-report.

A high-profile case from a dozen years ago Josh Griffin, a rookie Monroe Police officer convicted of pulling a woman in Union county and killing her heightened awareness and sensitivity among departments in our area to the problem.

But recent incidents at CMPD can raise that mistrust level high again.

Victoria Gonzalez, an immigration attorney says it's definitely done a number on the Latino community.  "It has intensified. It also has probably makes you more afraid of a police officer than viewing the police officer as a safeguard."

Cops know they have their work cut out for them.

Says Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police spokesman Officer Bob Fey, "I'd like to believe that the vast majority of the public understands the fact that one officer does not his actions do not represent those actions of the entire Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department or police officers in general."

So what can departments do? How do they win back trust?

Experts say communicate to the public exactly what they're going to do to rectify this problem, that deviant behavior won't be tolerated, that there will be a review in how officers are selected and appropriate behavior will be stressed during training and even in roll call.