The following article is Part 1 of an investigative series by AllOnGeorgia into the Brooklet Police Department under the authority of Former Police Chief Doug Meyer (also known as Max Meyer & Clifford Meyer). The series looks into Internal Affairs investigation reports, a series of body camera files, and details over a dozen incidents during Meyer’s tenure in which citizens allege harassment, retaliation, and false imprisonment by Meyer and a few of his officers. All documents contained in the article below were obtained by way of an Open Records Request filed on May 29, 2018.
Four months after Former Brooklet Police Chief Doug Meyer left his post as the head law enforcement officer of the small town in Bulloch County, complaints still continue to roll in against Meyer and his department, despite his abrupt departure over a now-viral video of him tossing a citizen from city hall for complaining about the police department.
Back in February 2018, a vitriolic traffic stop involving a woman by the name Cindy Lee was recorded and published across media outlets. The public outcry led to the resignation in lieu of termination by Meyer and he ‘retired’ to Tennessee. (The classification of departure sparked a POST investigation – more on that in the coming days)
Despite his departure, Internal Affairs investigations have shed light on troubling operations, complaints by citizens and business owners have dominated the paperwork internally, and even still, Meyer is collecting an excess of $3,500 per month in compensation and benefits from the City of Brooklet because he was allowed by council to resign instead of being terminated.
The laundry list of egregious allegations against the Police Department is defined by a handful of distinguishable incidents, specifically one from the fall of 2017 when Meyer threatened a Brooklet business owner with citations if he continued to speak out against the police department. That business owner was ultimately charged with four crimes and Meyer put it in writing that the charges were due to behavior of speaking out, not criminal activity.
BACKGROUND – THE PEANUT FESTIVAL
A City of Brooklet business owner who, for this article will be referred to by his initials – A.D., was attempting to access his business on the morning of the Brooklet Peanut Festival on August 19, 2017.
A written complaint filed by A.D. alleges that he was attempting to get past a closed road barrier when he was stopped by a “lady on a mule (ATV) who was throwing her hands in the air, yelling that I can’t come through and that I had to turn around.” A.D. explained to the ‘lady,’ later identified as the wife of Chief Meyer, that he needed to get to his business to get items for a catering event. His business was not barricaded, but one of the roads leading to his business was. He said the woman used her ATV to block him from going any further before an officer, former Brooklet Sgt John Baker, approached on an ATV as well. A.D. said in his complaint that Baker ‘aggressively’ told him to get out of his car after screaming at him at the top of his lungs. [Baker’s statement indicates that A.D. also used ‘colorful language’ to emphasize his need to get to his business which was less than 100 yards away from the stop] A.D. says he declined to get out of the vehicle because he had “not done anything wrong.” A.D. detailed that Baker placed his hand on his hip where is gun was, which prompted A.D. to step out of the car. Baker immediately handcuffed A.D.
In Baker’s statement, he says, at that point, he radioed for a patrol car because he “had one in custody.” Baker said A.D. asked what he had done wrong and Baker, in his statement, says he told A.D. he violated O.C.G.A 40-6-2 (failing to obey a person directing traffic), OCGA 16-11-39(a)(3) (disorderly conduct) and two different obstruction charges. Baker noted in his statement that all charges were misdemeanors.
Officers who reviewed the case said a reasonable person, at this point, would assume they were under arrest.
Baker wrote that he then told A.D. that he could go to jail for the charges or he could wait until the parade was over to go to his business. When A.D. said he would wait, Baker removed the handcuffs and A.D. was free to go. In the final line of his statement, Baker said he was later informed by the Chief that A.D. made a post about the incident on Facebook.Baker statement AD
In the days following, A.D. filed an official complaint at City Hall against Sgt. Baker which prompted a letter from Chief Meyer to A.D.
FALLOUT FROM THE COMPLAINT
In the letter from Chief Meyer, which is not dated but was sent some time after the complaint was filed by A.D. but sent before September 1, 2017, Meyer tells A.D. that if he does not “take the opportunity so generously afforded [to him] for a learning experience, then [he] will be cited into court for the violations…” This statement was made despite Baker’s release of A.D., without charges, on the day of the festival.
He continued, “Furthermore, if you insist on taking every opportunity to continue badmouthing this agency and its officers, then I can only conclude that you are still resistant, and will issue citations for the aforementioned violations.”
The statements by Meyer in his letter were made without any new information corroborating the details of the charges Meyer threatens, an incident that was previously resolved without citations or an arrest.
Meyer, in the letter, said he was “personally embarrassed” when he learned the person involved in the incident was A.D. “Your selfishness and lawlessness, in this case, are considered beneath the status to which I had formerly afforded you. You were only released from being initially detained, in hopes that you would have seen your error, learned from it, and then amended your future behavior.”
Meyer then went on to affirm Baker’s statement and allege that A.D. “willfully violated”:
- OCGA 16-11-39 – Disorderly conduct
- OCGA 16-10-24 – Obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers
- OCGA 16-10-30 – Refusal to Obey Official Request at Fire or Other Emergency
- OCGA 40-6-2 – Obedience to Authorized Persons Directing Traffic
The full letter sent by Meyer to A.D. is below:AD letter from Meyer
ISSUES WITH CODE SECTIONS CITED
There is at least one problem with the code sections cited by Baker and Meyer. The person directing traffic and instructing A.D. not to travel down the street was Meyer’s wife, who is not a law enforcement officer or designee. State law dictates, in OCGA 40-6-2, that “No person shall fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police officer, firefighter, police volunteer authorized under Code Section 35-1-11, or school crossing guard designated by a local law enforcement agency invested by law with authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic.”
But in reviewing 35-1-11 per the above-mentioned code section, the law only permits that a designee or volunteer control traffic in instances of an emergency, specifically “a police volunteer shall be authorized to direct and regulate the flow of traffic in the event of a fire, explosion, hurricane, tornado, or other emergency situation. The Brooklet Peanut Festival is not classified as a fire, explosion, hurricane, tornado or other emergency situation. Not only was Meyer’s wife’s action not legitimate, the code section did not apply.
A.D. CITED ANYWAY, WEEKS AFTER THE FACT
Two weeks later, on September 1, 2017, A.D.’s father ventured to City Hall to discuss the letter sent to A.D. with Meyer. The situation escalated and is currently working its way through the courts, however, Meyer penned a statement which detailed the incident with A.D. at the Peanut Festival as an addendum to the incident with his father.
In Meyer’s official statement on the incident, which he was not a witness to, he says A.D. was detained “in handcuffs” for four charges “for a short period of time until he calmed down.” He continued, “[A.D.] then got on social media and began telling lies and complaining aggressively. His brother or cousin then got on social media and began threatening that maybe they needed to “…go have a little talk with officer Baker.” In his statement, he repeatedly referred to the possibility of talks with Baker as “threats.”
“He was advised that if these statements did not cease, or if anything further happened, he would be cited into court to face the aforementioned charges for his actions on August 19,” Meyer wrote.
Meyer closed his statement saying, “On 1 September, [A.D]. came to city hall and said he wanted to talk to me. I told Sgt Baker to go to city hall and issue the aforementioned citations (heretofore held in abeyance) to [A.D]. and asked him to standby.”Meyer_AD supplemental (1)
A.D. was cited on all four charges and given a court date..
STATUS AFTER COURT, MEYER’S DEPARTURE
The court did not agree with any of the four charges against A.D. and the Police Clerk in the City of Brooklet confirmed on May 31, 2018 that all citations issued by Meyer to A.D. had been dismissed.
In Meyer’s letter to A.D., he said an Internal Affairs investigation had been launched into the complaint, but no paperwork exists to indicate such. In fact, much of the supporting documentation for the majority of complaints filed against the PD are missing, with the exception of those filed after Meyer’s departure. For the last four months, no one in City Hall has been able to locate documentation kept by Meyer on any open cases, outside of traffic stops and basic citation-related data.
Even still, AllOnGeorgia’s investigation yielded a grandiose pile of information which details what appears to be years of similar incidents where citizens allege harassment, retaliation, and abuse of power – much of which is corroborated with full body camera footage. Those articles and incidents will continue to be released in the coming days.
Sgt. Baker was terminated after a different incident, which led to an internal affairs investigation. More on that later.