Club rules 

How misbehaving cops stay in the ranks

Page 2 of 4

In September, CL called POST to check Ingram's status and discovered his license had been revoked 10 months earlier. The sheriff learned of the revocation from a reporter. Later that month, she said she terminated Ingram.

A month later, however, the council had no record of his termination.

"She might have fired him," says Wayne Melton, who is in charge of the POST's licensing division. "But I still show him active."

Georgia law states that law enforcement agencies must inform POST of suspensions or terminations within 15 days. Cops themselves are supposed to report the penalties within 10 days. But Melton says POST is seldom clued in, and the problem, again, is the law. He says the statute failed to provide the council with a way to punish agencies that don't comply.

"There's no provision for enforcement," Melton says. "It's like a toothless tiger."

The last page of Deputy Cleveland Solomon's file stands apart from any of the 1,500 pages of personnel records CL examined for this investigation. It is a letter dated Oct. 23, 2000, informing the deputy he's been terminated for the physical abuse of an inmate named Michael Calloway.

According to four witnesses -- two deputies and two jail nurses -- Solomon punched and kicked Calloway in the face while the inmate was handcuffed to a bench. Solomon denied the beating, claiming that Calloway's blood came from the inmate biting his own lip.

The punishment inarguably befitted the violation. Physical abuse equals termination. End of story.

An April 26 court order filed by the Personnel Board begs to differ. The board did not dispute that Solomon committed physical abuse. But it found that Sheriff Barrett didn't have the right to terminate Solomon, because then-Chief Deputy Gregory Henderson initially punished Solomon with a one-day suspension.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge signed the order, and Solomon was rehired with six months of back pay.

The sheriff says she changed the punishment when the Solomon case came to her on appeal. "Before that point [the Solomon investigation] had been handled below me," she says. "As I read it and the attorneys read it in preparing of the appeal, we took a whole different slant on it."

When asked if the department made a mistake in its initial decision in the Solomon case, the sheriff pauses. "Had I seen that case earlier, we might have gone with termination earlier," she says. "I think because of all that we went through on that case, the practice is that [Chief Deputy Caudell] Jones and I ... are in much closer contact and discuss these kinds of cases."

Barrett challenged the court order the following month. But the case was dropped two months later. According to Barrett, Solomon resigned.

POST -- which could have looked into the abuse allegations, revoked Solomon's certification and ensured his termination -- knows nothing of this fiasco. Melton says the council's file on Solomon, essentially comprised of whatever the sheriff's department hands over, shows that he was fired not in 2000 but in 1994.

POST did launch an investigation in February into allegations that Solomon committed some kind of sexual misconduct in 1993. Because the investigation is ongoing, no information is available.

When asked how to prove whether Solomon was actually fired once before, whether it was sexual misconduct that may have gotten him fired, why he might have been rehired the first time and why POST took so long to catch wind of a 1993 incident, Melton had no answers -- except one: "Fulton County's records are terrible."

But Barrett could say the same thing about the council's handling of Ingram's license revocation, which no one knew about for months.

"We're pretty consistent in mailing out [information] as we are required to do," she says. "I don't know how much more I can do besides mail it out."

One striking pattern among deputies who get in trouble in the jail is that they tend to get in trouble outside the jail, too. Deputy Kelvin Smith had faced 10 allegations of physical abuse of inmates -- all of them "unsubstantiated" -- when he ran into a man named Tim Peck while working off-duty security this spring. Smith said Peck confronted him, cursed him and pushed him. So Smith said he had no choice but to pull his baton and strike Peck so hard in the legs that he broke both of them.


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