REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE LAPD PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS BUREAU ON THE ACTIONS OF RENÉE BALLARD
Renée Ballard is a detective who works the 11:00 pm to 7:00 am shift out of Station 6 (Hollywood). Her assigned partner is detective John Jenkins. They are supervised by Lt. McAdams.
Personal Background. She was raised on the island of Maui where she learned to surf from her father, an accomplished competetive surfer. Her father's side of the family may have been at least partially native Hawaiian. When she was in high school her father drowned while surfing. At about the same time her mother, Makani, abandoned her, leaving her homeless for about a year until her grandmother, Tutu, took custody of her. She lived for a time with her grandmother in Ventura, California. She then attended the University of Hawaii where she majored in journalism. She was hired by the Los Angeles Times to cover the crime beat. After a short time she decided that she would rather work at solving crimes. She was hired by LAPD and quickly rose to the rank of detective in Robbery-Homicide division where she was partnered for five years with Det. Ken Chastain. In 2015 she filed a sexual harrassment complaint against Lt. Robert Olivas. Chastain reportedly had knowledge of the harrassment but did not support her complaint and Olivas was cleared. Subsequently, she was transferred from RHD to Hollywood station.
Analysis. The incident with Lt. Olivas should have made her more cautious about following departmental procedures, but instead she seems to have become more reckless. In addition, she was frustrated by her new role in the department because she was not able to see a case through to completion. This culminated on a night in 2017 when she responded to a credit card theft, a vicious assault on a transgender person, and the murder of five people at a nightclub called Dancers. In each of these cases she exhibited reckless disregard for proper tactics and departmental rules.
In the credit card theft case she arrested Christopher Nettles, though her tactics were informally criticized by Sgt. Melvin Smith. In the assault case, she undertook a very dangerous investigation of a suspect without the involvement of her partner and without backup, resulting in her abduction by the suspect. Fortunately, she was able to escape and the case ended with her killing the suspect, Thomas Trent, in self defense. Furthermore, she rescued the suspect's ex-wife who had also been abducted. Due to improprieties by the investigator from the Force Investigation Division, she avoided disciplinary action for her poor handling of the case. She was cleared for return to duty by Behavioral Sciences Unit.
In the Dancers murder case, her risky and unauthorized activities were numerous, according to Lt. Olivas who was in charge of the case. She was assigned only to collect one victim's belongings and inform the next of kin. Yet, she delved into other aspects of the case even after she was warned by Lt. Olivas and others to restrict herself to her assigned work. When her former partner was killed in a manner that suggested a connection to the Dancers investigation, her unauthorized investigation gained intensity.
Counterbalancing these criticisms of her activities is the fact that her work led to important evidence that was overlooked by the primary investigative team. She uncovered the fact that one of the victims had been wearing a recording device. By contacting that victim's attorney she gained further information that convinced her a rogue police officer was the killer. She was able to bring the case to a successful conclusion when she came across evidence that her former partner had left for her in case anything happened to him. This evidence led to the discovery of a fingerprint left by Det. Rogers Carr at the scene during the murders. Subsequent ballistics testing confirmed that Carr was responsible for the five murders at Dancers and the murder of Det. Chastain. Carr was then arrested without incident by Ballard and Lt. Olivas.
Recommendation. Det. Ballard's risky and unauthorized actions cannot be overlooked. However, the ultimate success of the three cases in question suggest that Det. Ballard still has value to the department. Furthermore, the testimony of Lt. Olivas indicates his support for her continued employment. In view of these factors, it is recommended that she be assigned additional training in tactics and procedures. It is further recommended that she attend counseling at Behavioral Sciences Unit on a schedule and duration to be determined. No disciplinary action is recommended at this time.