Originally created 11/17/06

Officer gets his penalties nixed

Although the Richmond County school board had "authorized" punishment of one of its police officers, it reversed its decision Thursday night after hearing all of the evidence.

In a closed-door meeting Aug. 10, the board met with then-Superintendent Charles Larke regarding an altercation earlier in the day between Officer Rolf Cramer and custodian Frankie Franklin at Murphey Middle School.

That morning there had been some sort of "banter and horseplay" between the two, according to the letter reprimanding the officer. Officer Cramer told Mr. Franklin he wasn't "in the mood," but the custodian continued.

At that time, the officer put his hand on the custodian's shoulder and told him to stop once again. When Officer Cramer turned his back he heard the sound of a gun "dry firing" and the words "bang, bang." He looked back and saw Mr. Franklin with what appeared to be a Smith and Wesson 9 mm pistol.

It ended up being a BB gun.

Dr. Larke fired Mr. Franklin and disciplined Officer Cramer for his part in the incident based on discussions in the closed-door meeting with school board members. The officer was suspended three days without pay, transferred, placed on probation for a year and prohibited from working special duties for a month.

The action was based on an interview with Mr. Franklin and a statement from Officer Cramer. Since then, the officer and two witnesses have been interviewed by the school board's internal affairs department.

"Hearing what we heard tonight, I think the action taken was premature," school board member Jimmy Atkins said.

In a grievance hearing Thursday night, the board restored the three days' pay Officer Cramer lost because of the suspension, agreed to let him transfer to another school and lifted his probation.

The letter of reprimand also will be removed at the end of the school year should he have no more discipline problems.

Art teacher Anthony Sturkey, who witnessed the incident, testified Thursday that Officer Cramer asked Mr. Franklin repeatedly to stop.

Board attorney Pete Fletcher said the superintendent "modified" his decision based on discussions with board members, but board members did not direct him to do as he did.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.


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