By Kendall Downing
May 1, 2017
Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich confirmed Monday her office is involved in the investigation of MPD Lt. Ouita Knowlton, which could include criminal charges.
Knowlton is a 23-year veteran of the force and last week MPD said she was relieved of duty on April 4. The department offered no other details.
A short statement from Weirich’s office said it is looking into the conduct that led Memphis Police Department to relieve Knowlton of duty. Weirich’s office will review the investigation to decide if criminal charges are necessary.
Knowlton was a founding member of the DNA unit which was tasked with working cold cases related to the city’s much publicized backlog of untested rape kits. She has been a critical part of the City of Memphis’ efforts to clear a backlog of more than 12,000 untested rape kits, some decades old.
She was honored by the Shelby County Crime Victims Center for her work on the unit back in 2014, and in 2016 she received an award from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
It remains unclear why the decorated detective is being investigated.
Deborah Clubb of the Memphis Area Women’s Council didn’t want to go on camera but said Knowlton was dedicated and did excellent work.
The group PERL, People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws, was formed in Memphis in 2015 after the discovery of the backlog. Its founder Meaghan Ybos released a statement to WMC Action News 5 on Monday.
As an organization that stands with individuals who have been impacted by sexual violence, PERL is very concerned that the award-winning Lt. Knowlton faces a criminal investigation. We are also disappointed that we are learning about this from a press investigation and not from the City of Memphis, which has long promised transparency in investigating these neglected rape cases.
The city of Memphis declined to comment Monday, citing a legal matter.
Weirich’s office did not give a timeline for any decisions in the investigation.
We reached out to Knowlton online and went to her home for comment but have not heard back.