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Rudeness tops list of complaints against Richmond County Sheriff's Office employees

Saturday, March 22, 2014 9:19 PM
Last updated Sunday, March 23, 2014 10:14 AM
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Rudeness topped the list of complaints the public has with Richmond County deputies.



Bianca Cain Johnson
Staff Writer
E-mail | 706-823-3486

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.

THE COMPLAINTS

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has been logging complaints against deputies since the end of August.

Rudness 31

Inappropriate conduct/misconduct 23

Excessive force 12

Other 62

Total 128

FIRINGS STEMMING FROM COMPLAINTS

A look at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office terminations resulting from complaints:

• Deputy Jailer Steven Water was fired after exchanging inappropriate text messages with a woman visiting an inmate at the jail in October.

• Deputy Carter Baker was fired after an FBI agent complained about criminal actions during a November investigation into sex-trafficking. The investigation determined Baker had sex with a 16-year-old after paying $200 for the service at an online escort service.

• Deputy Jailer Larry Bush was fired after he used a Taser on a prisoner in November. A termination letter shows the officer had a confrontation with the inmate, but the inmate had put his hands up and was being compliant.

• Deputy Richard Lopez was fired in November for his actions with a woman who was living in her car. A termination letter shows Lopez told the woman to follow him to an apartment complex parking lot where he began kissing and fondling her.

• Deputy Cheryl Batchelor was fired after an investigation determined she delayed responding to a burglary call. After being flagged down about an open door at a residence, police said the officer called the report in to dispatch, but drove away to urinate in a wooded area before responding. A similar incident occurred a month prior, when Batchelor failed to control or identify a possible drunken driver, who almost escaped in his vehicle, while she waited for another officer to arrive. When asked about it, Batchelor, a 16-year-veteran of the agency, said she didn’t know where to start so she wasn’t going to worry about it.

– Bianca Cain Johnson, staff writer

Comments (35) Add comment
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corgimom
45101
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corgimom 03/24/14 - 09:05 am
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I do not have the faintest

I do not have the faintest idea of what you are talking about, Autumn Leaves.

itsanotherday1
52065
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itsanotherday1 03/24/14 - 09:08 am
1
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rational

I think we generally agree. I don't have a problem firing at a dangerous fleeing felon; but the poster was making the argument that he can fire in self defense at a vehicle going away. That is NOT self defense in any sense of the word.

corgimom
45101
Points
corgimom 03/24/14 - 02:23 pm
0
0
There isn't a specified time

There isn't a specified time frame as to when an officer has can shoot and can't shoot.

When they shoot at a fleeing car, it happens in a matter of seconds- it's not like they wait 5 minutes and then start to shoot.

AutumnLeaves
11223
Points
AutumnLeaves 03/24/14 - 06:43 pm
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Corgimom, based on the

Corgimom, based on the feedback on most of your comments to me lately, that seems to be the consensus of opinion (that you have no idea what I'm talking about). I agree. It's really not that difficult to understand; sorry you're not up to speed lately. I hope you feel better soon.

csraguy
2606
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csraguy 03/25/14 - 02:10 pm
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Reality

The RCSO answered nearly 250,000 calls during the time period listed in the article and had personal contact with several thousand more citizens while working special duty or speaking with citizens other than on calls.

For acuracy, the article should have stated that less than .05% of the calls that deputies responded to and dealt with multiple suspects or victims generated anything but positive results.

Also, during this same time period, more deputies than listed above were awarded comendations for saving a life or going above and beyond the call of duty during a specific call for service within our community.

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