Most school safety officer complaints are disproved

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An incident that led to the recent firing of a Richmond County school safety officer is the only public complaint involving a worker with that department so far this school year, according to officials.

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School Resource Officers Tankia Dunnom, left, and Michael Missey patrol the halls at Morgan Road Middle School.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
School Resource Officers Tankia Dunnom, left, and Michael Missey patrol the halls at Morgan Road Middle School.

And despite records showing eight complaints being filed against Richmond County school officers for all of last school year, all were later deemed to be unfounded and the officers were cleared.

The protocol for how such reports are handled first involves a preliminary investigation by the school safety office. Besides the recent case of former officer James Holmon, school safety Lt. Richard Roundtree said workers in his department can't remember the last time an officer was fired because of a complaint.

Mr. Holmon was fired Sept. 22 after an investigation determined that he used excessive force on a 14-year-old student after a Sept. 11 football game at the Academy of Richmond County stadium. He was accused of taking the 14-year-old student to the ground and putting his hand around his neck after the student reportedly used a curse word and said he would punch him in the face.

Mr. Holmon was overheard on a recording from a video camera attached to his uniform saying he would kill the teen, and he had to be restrained by other officers.

An investigation determined that Mr. Holmon had violated the school safety department's procedures.

In Mr. Holmon's termination letter, school officials said that school officers are to "deal professionally with non-respectful and incendiary statements, students and citizens." The letter added, "This regrettable reality is almost a daily occurrence."

According to procedures in the district's School Safety Department Employee Manual, an officer should use force only when necessary and should never continue to do so when the individual has ceased to resist.

"Officers shall be tactful in the performance of their duties, shall control their tempers, exercise the utmost patience and discretion and shall not engage in argumentative discussions even in the face of extreme provocation," the manual says.

One of last year's eight complaints included a January allegation involving Mr. Holmon. He was accused of physically restraining and arresting a student and drawing his weapon to break up a large crowd outside a Josey High basketball game. He was cleared in that incident along with another officer, who was accused by a parent of using excessive force against her son.

Mr. Holmon was reprimanded for an April 2007 incident in which two students accused him of grabbing their shirts and lifting them off the ground after someone commented about his balding head.

Lt. Roundtree said most complaints have been filed by parents and stem from a student fight that an officer had to break up. He said parents hear their child's version of what happened and "a parent accuses you of putting a hand on their child for no good reason."

In the most recent case involving Mr. Holmon, Lt. Roundtree said, the school safety office didn't call in the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, noting that there were no injuries. Family members also haven't filed a complaint, according to the sheriff's office.

Lt. Roundtree said the school safety office typically handles its own investigations, with the exception of cases "severe or criminal in nature."

He said the department first conducts its own preliminary investigation, which is forwarded to Superintendent Dana Bedden. He said Dr. Bedden then decides whether the school safety department should continue with the investigation or have the school system's Professional Standards department called in, which Lt. Roundtree said usually occurs when injuries are involved.

Once the investigation is finished, a determination is made as to whether the officer should be cleared or receive a reprimand or other corrective action.

Shortly after Mr. Holmon's firing in the Sept. 11 incident, Dr. Bedden said the school safety office has had many "frivolous" complaints lodged against it during his tenure. He said that was one reason video cameras were attached to officer uniforms starting this school year.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or


Richmond County school safety officer duties:

- Responsible for area within 500 yards of school board property or at school events off school property.

- Assist principals in maintaining order at schools.

- Conduct investigations of incidents as required by board policies and state law.

- Enforce state and local statutes on school board property and take action when violations are reported or observed.

- Serve as a resource to the administration and make classroom presentations on law enforcement issues as requested by faculty.

- Supervise other law enforcement officers at assigned school sites, at athletic events, or other incidents requiring an increased need for law enforcement.

- Report to the principal or other administrators any crimes committed or planned at a school site.

- Remove trespassers and issue criminal trespass warnings or arrests when necessary.

- Respond to calls for assistance from other officers at other schools.

- Help principals train faculty members on how to respond to emergencies

Source: Richmond County School System Web site, Richmond County school officials

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hickstreetlane 10/03/09 - 07:49 am
Put these officers under

Put these officers under Sheriff Department. Make them deputies. The money saved from big salaries paid to the Director, Asst Director, and Lt, not to mention Dispatcher and support personnel would save money Oh btw dont forget all the extra money RCSS has to pay into teacher retirement, social security medical etc. Yes Richmond County Sheriff would have to pay that, but Sheriff would get more bang for the buck. The Sheriff would have extra personnel to use when school is out. The school system would only have to pay for deputies when they are actually at the school. Plus these officers would not be limited to 500 yards around the school. This would put extra officers on the street during school holidays, school vacations etc. Those RCSS officers are all experienced so they would most likely get a pay raise. What you say Asitisinaug? Simple fact is, you work there, would that not be good for you?

OIC 10/03/09 - 08:24 am
it would be cost effective.

it would be cost effective. did you know that r.c.b.o.e. calls the sheriff's office for any felony or weapons violation. richmond county b.o.e. officers have the same arrest powers but call a richmond county deputy to handle those cases. talk about wasted resources. my thought is eliminate the public safety officer and replace him with a minmum wage security guard. it would have the same result.

lexcabguy2004 10/03/09 - 09:06 am
Umm, gee lets see...You have

Umm, gee lets see...You have a suppossedly professional Georgia POST Certified Police Officer that loses control and chokes a kid (debatable). What kind of service you think you will get out a minimum wage security guard carrying a gun? If they were under the Sheriffs Office, they would get pulled for other duties. They need their own department. They just need ongoing training and a psychological exam. Do none of these departments around here do mental exams?

DEVGRU 10/03/09 - 09:14 am
Put them under the Sheriff's

Put them under the Sheriff's Office. They will not be pulled for other duties.

LEO 10/03/09 - 09:35 am
I wish CCBOE would take note

I wish CCBOE would take note of RCBE Publlic Safety's duties. Yes, a Sheriff's Office unit is called when it is a felony case, but at least RCBE Public Safety handles most everything else. When I worked for RCSO, it felt like an inconvenience when pulled from patrolling the beat to handle a theft report at the school (value of item taken just happened to be $501, making it a felony), but working for CCSO now, I have a new perspective. CCBOE resource officers are basically security guards (even though they are POST certified). The Sheriff's Office is called to handle EVERY report. Their officers don't even direct traffic in the school zones, which of course ties up most of the road patrol units on duty, since we have to pick up the slack... and this is about an hour at a time, twice a day! I don't mean to sound like I'm griping, but I wonder, when the sh** hits the fan, who's going to handle it, since we will be tied up directing traffic in the school zones?

Sweet son
Sweet son 10/03/09 - 10:08 am
First thing, if you are going

First thing, if you are going to have a RCBOE Public Safety Department, don"t hire the Sheriff's embarrassments to be your Lieutenant.

disssman 10/03/09 - 10:28 am
Well ain't we proud of

Well ain't we proud of ourselves. We have given the thugs proof that they can say and do almost anything now with impunity. I expect this news has already spread far and wide with the student population "That officers had better take our crap or we will get them fired". I read it no way other than now students and parents are in charge and any officer that bars that way is in deep trouble of loosing his job and career. These punks already show contempt for regular police, so whats next. I would suggest that when an officer sees trouble brewing, he or she turn around and go the other way, if they know whats good for themselves.

Riverman1 10/03/09 - 10:34 am
It's a stressful job. Run

It's a stressful job. Run them through Spirit Creek Middle for a little R and R, now and then. A satisfied man is a happy one.

justus4 10/03/09 - 10:54 am
So predictable...this story

So predictable...this story of the fired officer is over. The leadership exercised swift justice and terminated the officer, but now to try to evaluate the history of this agency and how it deal with misbehavior is a sign of, U know what. The intent of such stories is so obvious...why continue to do them?

wonderwhygib 10/03/09 - 11:35 pm
New Director = 94,000 a year

New Director = 94,000 a year Old Director = 90,000 year Captain 75,000 year, New LT 60,000 + a year vs No LT over many years. If new director is so much better than old as the hype goes, so why did they need a LT. The old director did not have one. And with budget crunch, why make Corporals. Sounds like giving jobs to people that kiss rear ends. Oh thats right Bedden and Rountree good friends, but apparently he could not get "killa ketcha" as Director, so he had to back door him in. Gots to agree with the poster who say give it to Sheriff.

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