4 staffers at AFA or­dered off jobs

The sus­pen­sions are in the sex­ual as­sault pre­ven­tion of­fice.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Tom Roeder

SPRINGS» Four COLORADO work­ers at the Air Force Acad­emy’s Sex­ual As­sault Pre­ven­tion and Re­sponse Of­fice have been sus­pended amid a month-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion that lead­ers of the school won’t dis­cuss.

Acad­emy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Her­ritage said undis­closed “is­sues” trig­gered a probe or­dered by acad­emy lead­ers. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volves an acad­emy of­fice that school Su­per­in­ten­dent Lt. Gen Michelle John­son and oth­ers have held up as a na­tional ex­am­ple for how col­leges can care for sex­ual as­sault vic­tims while ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents through pre­ven­tion pro­grams.

“That in­ves­ti­ga­tion lasted over a month and in­volved dozens of in­ter­views,” Her­ritage said in an email. “At this time, due to the fact that re­view of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­lated pro­cesses are still on­go­ing, as well as pri­vacy con­cerns of those in­volved, we can­not dis­cuss de­tails or find­ings of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

A source fa­mil­iar with de­tails of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion but not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia told The Gazette that four full-time staff mem­bers of the six-per­son of­fice were sus­pended. The source said John­son told acad­emy lead­ers she had “lost faith” in the of­fice’s abil­ity to care for vic­tims. Her­ritage con­firmed that an undis­closed num­ber of staff mem­bers “are no longer per­form­ing” sex­ual as­sault pre­ven­tion and re­sponse work. The colonel said he couldn’t say how many, be­cause dis­clos­ing the num­ber of staffers re­lieved of their du­ties could re­veal iden­ti­ties.

The of­fice, cre­ated after a 2003 sex­ual as­sault scan­dal rocked the school, of­fers coun­sel­ing and ad­vo­cacy for sex­ual as­sault vic­tims.

A Pen­tagon re­port re­leased in March showed that Air Force topped its sis­ter schools in the num­ber of re­ports of sex­ual as­sault from cadets, with 32 in the aca­demic year that ended June 2016, down from 49 a year ear­lier. Army had 26 re­ports, up from 17 a year ear­lier, and Navy had 28 re­ports, up from 25 the pre­vi­ous year.

In the same re­port, the Air Force Acad­emy’s fe­male cadets re­ported an in­crease in the preva­lence of “un­wanted sex­ual con­tact” last year, with 11.2 per­cent of them re­port­ing un­so­licited touch­ing, up from 9.7 per­cent.

John­son and other acad­emy lead­ers have said the will­ing­ness of cadets to re­port sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment shows they have con­fi­dence in the sys­tem.

Her­ritage said the acad­emy has ad­e­quate re­sources to care for sex as­sault vic­tims.

The source fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said vol­un­teer vic­tim ad­vo­cates, who un­dergo 40 hours of train­ing for the role, are tem­po­rar­ily fill­ing in.

The sus­pen­sions come at a key time for the of­fice, which will soon kick off its an­nual train­ing of fresh­man cadets. The class of 2021 ar­rived at the acad­emy for ba­sic train­ing Thurs­day, and sex­ual as­sault pre­ven­tion cour­ses for those cadets nor­mally start within their first week at the school.

Un­der John­son’s fouryear ten­ure, the gen­eral has re­peat­edly said the acad­emy’s sex­ual as­sault pre­ven­tion and re­sponse ef­forts set a na­tional ex­am­ple.

John­son is set to re­tire in Au­gust, likely leav­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion on the sus­pended work­ers to her re­place­ment, Maj. Gen. Jay Sil­ve­ria.

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