Lynnwood Police Chief Tom Davis issues statement regarding Netflix’s ‘Unbelievable’

Lynnwood Police Chief Tom Davis

In response to a Netflix miniseries based on a decade-old rape case involving a Lynnwood woman, Lynnwood Police Chief Tom Davis has issued a letter to the city’s community regarding the Lynnwood Police Department’s involvement.

Unbelievable was inspired by the 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” about an 18-year-old Lynnwood woman — identified by court documents as “D.M.” — who was raped at knifepoint in her apartment. She was later accused of lying about the assault and charged with false reporting.

In 2011, the rapist was caught in Colorado by two female detectives after he raped three women there and was linked to the Lynnwood crime.

In 2014, D.M. was awarded $150,000 in a lawsuit settlement with the City of Lynnwood.

The full content of Davis’ letter is below:

Dear Lynnwood Community, 

Recently, Netflix released a series based in part on an improperly-conducted sexual assault investigation by Lynnwood Police Department in 2008. The circumstances surrounding this horrendous sexual assault — to include the improper investigative decisions made — still resonates deeply with members of this department more than a decade later. Watching this impactful and thought-provoking series has led some to compare the Lynnwood Police Department of 2008 to our department today. 

An appropriate question would be, “What steps have the department taken to ensure an outcome such as this does not happen again?” Here is what I have learned.

Upon learning about the circumstances surrounding this investigation in 2011, the former police chief immediately requested an independent outside review of this investigation, as well as a review of the policies and procedures associated with how the department investigated sexual assault complaints. Coincidentally, in 2011, I was part of the leadership team of the outside agency contacted to assist the department. I approved the request and designated the supervisor who conducted this important review for the department. 

It is my understanding that the department took the results of this outside review very seriously and, in fact, implemented multiple changes in 2011 as a result of the lessons learned from the 2008 case. This included employing a victim-centered investigative philosophy and providing additional training in sexual assault investigations for detectives and patrol staff. Portions of these trainings were instructed by victim advocates who work directly in support of victims of sexual assault. 

Additionally, the department currently employs a full-time crime victim coordinator to work directly with all crime victims, including victims of sexual assault. I am proud of the regionally recognized work performed by our crime victim coordinator and our strong emphasis on victim support. 

I was hired as Lynnwood’s police chief in 2016. Although I was not an employee of this department in 2008 or 2011, I am no less distressed by the decisions and circumstances from 11 years ago that undoubtedly caused additional harm to the victim. This was not acceptable then and it would not be acceptable today. 

What I can tell you with certainty is that when I arrived here three years ago, with the vision and support of our current mayor, I and my leadership team began moving the department through measurable cultural change. 

The department I lead today has worked intentionally and tirelessly to advance our community partnerships and outreach efforts and to develop a values-based organizational culture. There are many positive examples of these efforts, both internally and externally, which I am very proud of, however, these current successes do not in any way excuse or rationalize the improper decisions made in 2008. Quite simply, there is no acceptable explanation for what occurred at that time.

Moving forward, I am committed to ensuring our department continues to evolve; focusing on hiring and developing a more diverse workforce, ensuring ongoing training and professional development, and advancing our strong valuesbased organizational culture within our department

Today, I am proud of the determined effort by the professional and compassionate men and women of this department who work hard every day to provide professional police services in a fair and equitable manner to our community. And we will continue to work hard every day to earn and maintain the trust of our community

Our department is firmly committed to our organizational values of professionalism, vigilance and community and toward being a safe and welcoming community resource — one that is committed to supporting and respecting victims of all crimes. As your police chief, this is my commitment to you


Tom Davis, Chief of Police

  1. I applaud those leaders in your department that saw the tragedy that occurred, recognized it for the horror it was and, instead of turning away, chose to do what was necessary to change that culture.
    I applaud your desire to move forward from those changes by continuing to evolve towards a culturally sensitive department. I hope this is indicative of the future of all police departments which can only help in alleviating the current misplaced anger toward police in general , an attitude that seems to be flourishing on the internet no matter how baseless it may be.
    Thank you for recognizing “DM’s” pain and the pain of all of us who have been put through the ringer for reporting this type of crime.

  2. I’m sure that the Chief is a consummate professional and is rightfully protective of the employees in his charge. My question is this, why can’t the statement also include a heartfelt apology worded in a manner consistent with a normal human being rather than a public relations firm? This type of sterile language feels robotic and lacks compassion. I understand why this happens, but the rationale behind it is misplaced and overly “crafted” to be taken seriously by the public at large.

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