One of the newly-hired police officers in the City of Brooklet is a concern for citizens who say they learned of a less-than-exceptional past of the officer at another department in the area. But documents raise questions over whether or not city officials are doing their due diligence with regard to their new hiring practices.
AllOnGeorgia was recently contacted by two concerned Bulloch County residents regarding one of the new officers who reportedly struggled to meet certain standards during training and tenure at the Statesboro Police Department. AllOnGeorgia filed an Open Records Request with the City of Statesboro to obtain the officer’s personnel file and training file, which ultimately illustrated that at least four officers and one administrator documented concern in writing over the officer’s ability to acceptably conduct police work.
Among the complaints in the personnel file from Statesboro were allegations by other officers that reports were falsified, the officer did not demonstrate knowledge of the criminal code, and the officer was unable to meet standards in an acceptable manner.
Brief Update on PD Hires
Since the departure of former chief Lawrence Norville Douglas Meyer III and officers John Baker, Lee Rogers, and Charles Dutton, the City of Brooklet has put on hold their formal search for a chief and instead appointed Lee Craft to serve as the PD’s top officer, while also bringing on two full-time officers and six part-time officers. Their names are as follows:
- Lee Craft (Chief)
- Santonio Johnson
- Pierre Jorden
- William Wayne
- Kelli Powers
- Brandi Stock
- Matthew Swint
- Joe Moser
- Dewey Hunt
But the concerns over the recent hire highlight citizen concern over a flawed hiring procedure.
Documented Concerns of the Officer in Question at Previous Employer
AllOnGeorgia received 200 pages of documentation in the Open Records Request demonstrating that the Brooklet officer’s file from Statesboro is a six-month long timeline of lackluster improvement and general policing concerns.
The officer never made it out of the Field Training Program, which is the first step in policing after the academy. The average time in the Field Training program is four months. The officer in question remained in the program for a little over six months before resigning.
Among the documents in the personnel file that outlines concerns were:
- Two letters from GPSTC about two failed exams in the Academy (2 is the maximum # of failures before dismissal from the Academy)
- 3 failed internal tests, which are part of Statesboro PDs Field Training Officer (FTO) program
- Documentation about embellished and incorrect police reports
- 24 weekly evaluations by the officer’s FTO, many of which the officer wrote ‘I disagree’ over all of the critiques of his police work before submitting to a supervisor
- Recommendations for the officer to repeat phases of the training instead of advancing through the program
- 1 letter from a FTO expressing “concern” about successfully completing the training program unless “drastic improvements” are made
- 1 letter from a FTO requesting training of the officer be terminated
- A 7-page letter to the Chief and Deputy Chief in Statesboro from a Field Training Officer highlighting concerns with the officer. In this letter, the officer outlined why he felt the officer should be terminated from the SPD training program
- A 2-page letter from an FTO officer who said it “would be a disservice to the officer and [SPD] to advance [the officer]” in the agency
- A letter from the Deputy Chief at SPD recommending the officer be allowed to resign from the program in lieu of termination for failing to meet the minimum standards
- 1 Annual Performance Review from 2018 with a score of “Unacceptable”
- Evaluator noted that the officer “tries to justify his mistakes by disagreeing” and stated that reports are not consistent with information given
- “[The officer] completed reports that were farm from accurate, even to the point where he made up information on a report that was never said.”
The common themes included:
“[The officer] is still not retaining what he has been taught…”
“[The officer] has shown some improvement, but not what is expected for the normal length of phase 1 trainee.”
“He fails to act upon any suggestions for improvement.”
“[The officer] appears to be unaware of potential dangers around himself.”
Officer’s Departure from Statesboro
In August 2018, more than a month after a recommendation by the Deputy Chief was made to request the resignation or termination, the officer submitted a letter of resignation citing that his progress was “unrewarded” and his “work duties were ignored.” He asked for a positive recommendation at future agencies.
Even still, the Statesboro PD’s exit paperwork said, “Employee struggled in the training program, had difficulty performing up to standards,” in the section about what could have been done to avoid quitting on the part of the employee.
“Employee had difficulty grasping the job duties – he made the effort but was apparently unable to perform adequately….was struggling to perform at an acceptable level,” the paperwork obtained by AllOnGeorgia in an Open Records Request read.
Officer Moves on to Brooklet in September 2018
Given the wealth of documentation that was easily obtainable through Open Records, AllOnGeorgia sought out city officials in Brooklet to understand whether the city knew about the problems with the officer or if the hiring process simply did not entail an in-depth look at officer employment history.
AllOnGeorgia asked what steps were taken by the city to conduct background checks. The following response was offered:
The hiring process for PD Applicants are done initially with the PD application signed affidavits for us to contact previous and existing employer(s). We use a third party company named Professional Screening & Information (PSI) to do a very thorough background check of previous or existing employer(s) which also includes: Criminal, credit, education, military, GA POST, employment references, social acquaintances which include peer, colleague or friends.
Once all this paperwork is signed I scan and email the PSI paperwork to them they start their process and Chief Craft makes his phone calls as well to the human resources departments (if they have one if not then to the City Clerk or Police Chief). Chief Craft receives the information to send over an open records request for the potential employee’s personnel file and “any other files” they may have on the applicant which includes discipline files. Once all this is in place then we wait for the background check from PSI to return which normally we receive in about 3-5 business days and we wait for the open records request to return.
AllOnGeorgia filed an Open Records Request for the same information that would be obtained by Brooklet, per their policy, and yielded the 200 pages of documents.
So if the City of Brooklet followed their own policy for conducting checks on officers, did they know about the problems of the officer in question?
AllOnGeorgia made three attempts in writing to obtain an explanation from the city with regard to the inquiries on the officer, but after a week of requests at the time of publishing, AOG had not received a response. AllOnGeorgia specifically asked if the city was aware of the written reprimands, concerns, and recommendation for resignation in lieu of termination in Statesboro. The city only responded to questions on the policy, not the officer in particular.
Members of council were also questioned on whether they were informed or aware of the concerns, but Brooklet officials never answered whether or not the city was aware of the officer’s exam failures and documentation of concern by other officers, if council was aware that documentation existed that suggested the officer should resign in lieu of termination, or to confirm who was contacted at the Statesboro Police Department.
AllOnGeorgia contacted the City of Statesboro to see if officials from Brooklet reached out. Statesboro PD officials said no formal recommendation was requested from Brooklet, but the Brooklet Police Chief spoke on an informal basis and the Statesboro PD Patrol Captain informed Brooklet officials that the officer did not pass out of the FTO program.
You can read more on the previous Brooklet PD articles below.
Part 1 — Fmr Chief in Brooklet acknowledged citing business owner for speaking out against PD
Part 2 — VIDEO: Fmr. Brooklet Chief to Motorist: ‘I’m going to work to get you fired’ during speeding-related traffic stop
Part 3 — VIDEO: Brooklet PD secured warrant day after man filed complaint about traffic stop
Part 4– Documents show Brooklet Council teetered on officer discipline despite findings of wrongdoing
Part 5 – Brooklet Chief Retroactively Issued Citation to Motorist after POST complaint filed
Part 6 – Body Camera Shows Officer Lied to Motorist About Radar Accuracy Check
Part 7 – Fmr Brooklet Officers Under Investigation with POST, Records Indicate Investigations in Past
Part 8 – Brooklet Says Official Documents are in Possession of Meyer, Not City
Part 9 – Brooklet Councilman Breaks Silence on Police Department, City Hall Issues
Part 10 – Column: My Goal in Publishing the Chaos in Brooklet
Part 11 – 2 More Brooklet Officers Suspended Indefinitely Without Pay
Part 12 – VIDEO: Brooklet Council Retroactively Reprimands Mundy, Will Seek Second Opinion on All Outside Investigations
Part 13: Complaint: PD Administration, City Council Failed to Investigation Sexual Assault Allegations
Part 14: Brooklet Council Allows Suspended Officers to Resign, Reverses Reprimand of Mundy
Part 15: Previously Suspended Brooklet Police Officers Get Back Pay, Promise of ‘Neutral Recommendations’