A police report on file with body camera footage from the Reidsville Police Department alleges that Reidsville’s top elected official asked an officer not to pursue a case involving family members of a city councilwoman.
The body camera footage and relevant documentation were obtained through an Open Records Request which was filed by AllOnGeorgia on Monday, August 13, 2018 after a citizen expressed concern that the incident report was ‘going to disappear.’ The Reidsville Police Department, with the assistance of city attorney DuAnn Davis, was compliant in fulfilling the request with all pertinent documentation and in a timely manner.
The initial incident
The narrative attached to a police report from an incident on August 11, 2018 reveals that Officer Smith responded to a call that a child was ‘walking and crying’ in the street and the complainant was concerned that the child was lost. According to the report, upon arrival on the scene, the child told Smith she was lost. Smith spoke with people in the neighborhood to identify the parents of the child. The child’s Godmother arrived on the scene with Officer Smith and the child and informed Officer Smith that she [the Godmother] was the daughter of Councilwoman Carolyn Crume-Blackshear.
The details of the incident are below, but ultimately, the father was charged with reckless conduct. Officer Smith is heard on the body camera telling the parties involved that he chose to issue the misdemeanor citation because the child was involved and he was not comfortable ‘doing nothing’ due to the liability that would be left on him if he did. Smith said he would prefer that a judge hear everyone’s statements and decide. Reckless conduct, under Georgia law, is defined as “a person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm or endanger the safety of the other person and the disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Smith said his ‘number one priority’ was the child. DFCS was not contacted because the officer, in his discretion, determined that it was not a child abuse case and that the well-being of the child was not in danger. The case will be heard in Reidsville Municipal Court before Municipal Court Judge DuAnn Davis.
You can review the police report and narrative below. The body camera footage from the initial incident is available at the bottom of this article.Reidsville_Incident Report 08.11.18_Smith
Clifton talks to Officer Smith the next day
Clifton and Officer Smith are shown in the EnMark gas station on Highway 280 in Reidsville. Clifton asks Smith, who in uniform with a body camera, if ‘Ricky’ [Baatz – another officer] told him what Clifton wanted to speak to him about. Smith said ‘no.’ Clifton goes on to explain circumstances surrounding the incident on Saturday and said he was contacted by Councilwoman Carolyn Crume-Blackshear who said the family doesn’t want to go to court over what Clifton refers to as “the missing child” incident.
Clifton is seen on camera making hand motions while speaking of the desires of Councilwoman Carolyn Blackshear and what should happen with the case. Smith is heard on camera telling Clifton that he is a mandatory reporter with the state and cannot choose to do nothing with regard to the case.
Clifton then tells Smith that he needs to speak to Stacey, referring to the Chief of Police, before he ‘files a report before a judge.’ The pair exchange more details of the case and Smith said he felt the incident was a “mistake, not a case of child abuse.”
Officer Smith filed a report on the exchange with Clifton and says he perceived that Mayor Clifton was ‘insinuating that they wanted me to make the case go away.’ The report is filed as an Incident Report for ‘Influencing a Witness’ – O.C. G.A. 16-10-93 (read the code section here).
The report is below, along with the body camera footage of the exchange, which totals 4:00 minutes.Reidsville_Incident Report 08.12.18_Smith_Clifton
Chief Wilds was not asked by AllOnGeorgia to comment on this matter, but he is aware of the incidents and signed off on the reports filed by Smith. He also assisted in fulfillment of the Open Records Request.
AllOnGeorgia emailed Mayor Clifton with a request for comment on the incident and he
responded on the incident at length.
Clifton told AllOnGeorgia that Councilwoman Crume-Blackshear did contact him on the evening of the incident and Clifton acknowledged that he told her he would find out what was going on. He said he went to the police department at 1:15 P.M on Sunday to speak with Officer Smith, but he was not yet on duty. Clifton said he saw Smith’s vehicle at EnMark later in the day, around 6:00 P.M., and asked to speak with him.
Clifton told AllOnGeorgia that he does not remember asking Smith to speak with Chief Wilds before filing a report, but confirmed he told Smith he would contact Wilds on Monday and that he told Smith he didn’t want him to break any laws. Clifton told AllOnGeorgia that speaking with Wilds was not out of the norm, as he talks to the chief every Monday about what happens over the weekend. Clifton said on the Monday in question, he did not seek out Wilds and that Wilds came to his office around 10:30 or 11:00 A.M. to let him know that an Open Records Request had been filed about incidents from over the weekend. Clifton said he also asked to see the videos and documentation, but has not yet had an opportunity to review it all.
According to Clifton, the problem arose from the fact that he did not like that the parents were “charged with neglect” and referenced some misunderstandings, alluding to the fact that the child was crying in the street because the lights and sirens “probably scared the child somewhat.”
The relationship between Clifton, Officer Smith and his supervisor, Brand Jones, are strained, Clifton told AllOnGeorgia Friday. “They don’t like me because I tell ‘em like it is. They think that I should be scared of them,” Clifton said. “They don’t think anyone with authority should say anything to them.”
Clifton said the City recently settled a federal lawsuit upwards of $66,000 for overtime pay and that Jones and Smith claim any action by Clifton is retaliation because of the suit. “It is not retaliation,” Clifton said.
AllOnGeorgia asked Clifton if he was attempting to influence Smith’s action, Clifton said, “I don’t think that’s what I was trying to do. I speak with my hands a lot. I may have held my hands up and said, ‘Mrs. Carolyn wishes this thing would go away.’ I feel that way now though. Some little, simple thing has turned into a big deal.”
“I was trying to get all of the facts,” Clifton reiterated. “I don’t think this was a case of child neglect. When it comes down to it, I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city. If a council man or woman asks me to look into something, I feel it’s my duty to see what I can find out.”
The father of the child was not charged with neglect, only reckless conduct.
Below is the body camera footage from the Saturday incident involving the child. It has not been clipped, but sensitive information like the child’s name and party dates of birth have been redacted.