Another drug officer resigns

For the second time in three months, a Richmond County narcotics officer has resigned, and Sheriff Ronnie Strength confirmed Monday the FBI is investigating.

Sheriff Strength said Investigator Cecil Ridley left the department Friday, joining former Sgt. Mathue Phares, who resigned in December.

Both men were working in narcotics at the time of their resignations. Neither Sheriff Strength nor FBI special agent Ed Reinhold would discuss the investigations.

According to personnel records obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, Mr. Phares faced disciplinary actions four times during his 17-year career. The most serious incident occurred in 1991 when he was sent to check on a possible burglary and didn't get out of his patrol car to inspect the building.

Mr. Ridley was disciplined nearly twice as often for other offenses, which included abusing his authority, lying to a superior officer, a domestic violence incident in 2000 and failing to show up for court hearings last year.

Mr. Phares and Mr. Ridley are the latest of four narcotics investigators who have resigned abruptly over the past year.

Robert Harrell resigned last March before disciplinary action could be taken against him. According to personnel records, he admitted on March 22 that he had fired his weapon while chasing a suspect on foot. He had lied to supervisors and internal affairs and twice committed perjury in regard to the incident, according to his personnel records.

Horace A. Spratley was forced to resign in June after physically abusing a suspect. According to a disciplinary report, the suspect said Mr. Spratley punched him twice in the face while he was handcuffed. Mr. Spratley said he hit the suspect in the face only with an open hand, the report states.

Prosecutors said Monday that they hope the latest resignations won't affect prosecutions of drug cases; however, the resignations of Mr. Harrell and Mr. Spratley have led to the dismissal of nearly 20 of their recent Richmond County drug cases, according to court and prosecution records.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.