Unbecoming an officer

Errant deputy deserved jail time for abusing his power

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of former Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy Mathew Sides.

It’s curious, to say the least: Mathew Sides acted like anything but a police officer when he approached an amorous couple in a car last Oct. 9. But he sure called on his law enforcement powers once he got there.

The then-Richmond County Sheriff’s officer allegedly drove off his beat that night, walked into the woods – reportedly to urinate – and walked a good bit more to a car parked in the deserted back lot of the long-abandoned Regency Mall. He didn’t drive to the scene, as protocol would warrant, call for backup or even notify dispatch what he was doing.

Once there, he made sure he remembered his privileged position and traded on it – reportedly requiring the unclad woman to expose herself even more to him – after saying to the couple, “What am I going to do with y’all?”, according to a prosecutor.

That was pretty much it. No untoward physical contact was reported or anything like that. And yet, talk about conduct unbecoming an officer. You don’t have to be touched to be violated. And when the violator is an officer sworn to uphold the law, the violation is that much worse.

We’re also told that Mr. Sides was less than forthright about matters afterward.

The power we invest in law enforcement officers is much too great to be invested in the untrustworthy. Our safety and security are too precious.

So we were nonplussed to see that the former officer avoided jail time for his abuse of power. Instead, Superior Court Judge Michael Annis
put Sides on five years’ probation Friday. It
comes with orders of restitution to the victim for counseling, community service and a ban on
holding supervisory positions. But it doesn’t come with the same stigma and statement that a little jail time might have. For that, we are disappointed.

Law enforcement officers who act like law enforcement officers don’t mind being held to a little higher standard than the rest of us.

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