Rudeness topped the list of complaints the public has with Richmond County deputies.
Since the sheriff’s office started logging complaints at the end of August 2013, there have been 128, 31 of which were filed under “rudeness.”
“The majority of cases they’re not rude, just very stern,” said Capt. Calvin Chew, who heads the Internal Affairs Division that investigates any complaint against its nearly 300 officers.
Chew said most of the cases occur in a traffic stop when an officer speaks with the driver in a monotone voice, instead of being conversational. Some of the public feels it comes off as “cold or thoughtless.”
“There are times when deputies are rude and we address it,” he said.
Including complaints about rudeness, there have been about 23 complaints about misconduct or inappropriate conduct on and off duty and 12 complaints of excessive force. The remaining complaints range from citation disputes to reports of deputies speeding or not using traffic signals.
There have been a few unusual ones, like one filed in February that alleges a prisoner found a frog in his food and was told to eat it by a jailer. Police have still not been able to determine where the frog came from, but there have been no other similar reports. Chew said the officer asked to take the tray but the inmate refused.
The officer was suspended for two days for not following protocol. Chew said he should have taken the tray even if the inmate refused so officials could better investigate the circumstances.
The majority of the cases result in no action or investigators find them to be unfounded.
“A lot of times what they (the public) thinks is wrong isn’t a policy violation,” Sgt. Monica Belser said.
Sometimes, the complainant doesn’t want to file a formal report or cannot provide enough information to identify the officer or car involved in the activity.
Action resulted in 34 of the cases. More than 20 of those cases were forwarded to the officer’s supervisor to determine a course of action after the complaint was verified.
“We (internal affairs) don’t really know the deputy,” Chew said, “but the supervisors know them (and their personalities) so they know better how to handle it.”
The supervisor can choose to speak with the deputy or even decide on a suspension depending on the circumstances.
Five officers were fired in 2013. No firings have resulted from complaints this year.
“We want to protect our officers and clear our officers,” Chew said. “A lot of times, internal affairs (officers) get a bad rep, and you see that on TV shows. If you’re not doing another wrong, you have nothing to worry about it.”
In some cases, it comes down to one person’s word against another, but new technology, such as body cameras, is assisting in some investigations.
After an accusation following a traffic stop arrest, police were able to view body camera footage and determine the officer acted accordingly.
Not all officers have been equipped with cameras yet.