Who guards the guardians?

Law enforcement should strive to avoid excessive force

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It’s not fair to condemn an entire police department for the actions of one rogue officer, but it’s not fair to absolve it, either.

Agencies, particularly law enforcement, bear responsibility and accountability for those in their employ.

So it shouldn’t have taken an Augusta Chronicle investigation into the actions of Georgia Regents University cop Wesley Martin to get the attention of his supervisors or to elicit something resembling concern from the university. The fact that it did take such an investigation is another indication of how little regard university administrators have for the community.

An analysis of three years’ worth of GRU reports shows Martin used force during encounters nearly three times as often as his colleagues, and used his stun gun more than twice as often. In a profession in which officers can go months, or years, without drawing their stun guns, Martin used his to threaten or stun people 19 times.

It was Martin’s repeated stunning of motorist Frederick Gibbons during a traffic stop in 2012 that prompted the Chronicle investigation. Gibbons was acquitted of charges after a 2013 trial in which Martin admitted to lying about his version of the events.

That probably should have ended his employment with the department, but it didn’t.

He’s since been involved in two incidents in which he has drawn his service pistol, most recently during a noise-complaint call at University Village apartments, where he fired 10 shots at a student attempting to drive away from the complex. Charges in that case have not been filed.

Martin was placed on leave for a week and reassigned to an administrative post, presumably where there is little cause to reach for a weapon.

University President Ricardo Azziz issued a statement to GRU students, faculty and staff earlier this week reassuring them he is “committed to ensuring that encounters involving our Public Safety officers are conducted with professionalism and fairness to everyone.”

That’s a tepid response considering the current strained relationship between the community and the university. But it’s better than doing nothing, which apparently is what the university has done regarding Officer Martin’s actions to date.

All it takes is one aberrant officer to make the rest of a law enforcement department look bad. GRU’s Public Safety Division owes it to the people it serves and protects to make sure that its respected officers don’t rely too heavily – or eagerly – on force to perform their duties.

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Riverman1 06/07/14 - 05:48 am
Surprised Martin Still Around

I was stunned (luckily not by Martin) when I heard Martin had shot the student at the noise complaint. I figured with his history and after the Gibbons incident he would have been fired a long time ago. I wonder if he is one of those GRU officers who "volunteered" to work at Azziz's party for his niece?

myfather15 06/07/14 - 05:51 am
If Martin stabs someone with

If Martin stabs someone with a pen while on admin duties, that should be the final straw!! Actually, with the people running GRU, probably not!! They would probably just give him sensitivity training!!

Take this guy's taser AND gun, then let him go police for a while. I bet he would learn how to talk to people then!! He would be trembling in his shoes!! Probably even wet himself the first time someone talked back to him!! PERCY, from green mile!!

jimmymac 06/07/14 - 10:56 am

This guy gives decent cops a bad name. Most campus cops get training similar to city cops. He's just guilty of having a short fuse and terrible control.

Darby 06/07/14 - 11:10 am
People like this officer

tend to give aberrant give pit bulls a good name.

Sweet son
Sweet son 06/07/14 - 12:12 pm
Having a badge and a weapon does not make a police officer!

Those two ornaments maybe make someone a police officer on paper but a police officer is a lot more than that. This position as with any position requires one to gain respect and not demand it. myfather15 is right! If you took Martin's gun and taser he would we a jello wimp. He operates under the assumption the gun and badge make him an officer when in fact an officer makes himself one by his actions and demeanor when dealing with the public. I don't know him personally or any of the rest of the officers but the Editorial Staff is spot on with this assessment.

Also, McBride, his superior, has been negligent by not dismissing Martin.

stuaby 06/07/14 - 04:57 pm
Who guards the guardians?

Who guards the guardians? The same people who watch the watchers!

just man
just man 06/07/14 - 08:42 pm
Community disturbances

Community disturbances resulting from the police use of excessive or deadly force continue to plague many African Americans. Law enforcement is an important societal function and it's effectiveness is hampered when tensions exist between the police department and the public it serves. There still a large gulf between how the criminal justice system is viewed by Black and White Americans. There is no other area where the potential for misunderstanding can have such dangerous consequences.

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