DeKalb top brass reviewing policies after rash of officer indictments

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:

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DECATUR, Ga. - DeKalb County's top cops spoke out for the first time since the arrest of three officers for racketeering last week, saying they are reviewing policies and reminding all officers of the need for strong ethics on and off the job.

"Not only is this embarrassing to the department, it's embarrassing to the citizens of the county and the law enforcement profession," said DeKalb Police Chief William O'Brien.

O'Brien says he recently rolled out a new ethics program with reminders at roll call and staff meetings.

He sat down with Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer, as did Public Safety Director William "Wiz"Miller and DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis to discuss the recent arrests.

"We want a department that operates and upholds the trust the public puts in it. We've made it very clear that we don't tolerate wrongdoing," said Ellis.

On Thursday, a grand jury indicted officers Blake Norwood, Arthur Parker and Anthony Robinson for racketeering and other charges, stemming from the beatings of several handcuffed teenage burglary suspects.

"You can't be out here with these officers every day. Obviously we've got a number of them that have been making some extremely poor decisions," said O'Brien.

He says his department has done everything it can to stop officers from getting into trouble, including reviewing all complaints against officers. Internal affairs detectives forward any possible criminal activity to the criminal investigations division and then prosecutors.

"I think when you look at some of these and see that the results have ended in termination or folks resigning in lieu of termination, I think it's a proven system that shows it works," said O'Brien.

He points out it was fellow officers who turned in Norwood, Parker and Robinson. They are three of at least seven officers charged in the past year. In January, Officer Ghayth Abdul-Mughnee was arrested for theft and violating his oath.

In September, Gwinnett Police arrested Officer Clifton Casurra for battery and interfering with a 911 call. Last year a grand jury indicted Officer Jeremy Reynolds for rape, having sex with a person in custody and violating his oath.

Officer Donald Bristol pleaded guilty to charges related to helping others hide a stolen vehicle, and lying to federal agents.

"I was extremely shocked when I heard we had this many officers coming under these kind of charges at the same time. So yes, we will review our policies, we'll see if we need to do something different, but we want the public to know we take these things seriously," said Miller.

Three separate Channel 2 investigations also officers either cleared or lightly disciplined for cases now under criminal investigation.

Officer Tarik Crumpton is now on restricted duty for his actions while working off-duty at Dugan's sports bar last year. Crumpton allegedly attacked a man who said goodnight to a woman Crumpton was speaking with, slamming the man into a patrol car, then charging him with destruction of government property and obstruction.

Internal affairs issued Officer Crumpton a one-day suspension. Prosecutors are now investigating his actions and dismissed the charges against the victim earlier this year.

Internal affairs detectives found Officer Jerad Wheeler's use of force justified after he kicked a woman in the stomach while she was nearly nine months pregnant. He charged her with obstruction, which prosecutors dropped last week. Wheeler had two additional use of force complaints in the past nine months.

Internal affairs cleared him in both of those as well, including shooting a family's dog after responding to the wrong address, and twisting the arm of a grandmother after her daughter's traffic accident. The use of force in all three cases was not directed at anyone involved in the original police call.

Officer Eric Adkison resigned in lieu of termination after several investigations, including his role as president of the Frontrunnerz motorcycle club.

He's accused of hosting an unsanctioned hearing regarding a rape that occurred after a club function.

"We have a lot of officers who get it right the first time. We have a lot officers that need a little nudging and sometimes you have to give them a little kick in the pants to get them right. Then some need more severe disciplinary action. We try to make the appropriate call every single time and again, sometimes we don't get it right, we'll admit that," said Miller.

Miller says he recently shifted the command assignments within the police department to bring a fresh set of eyes to certain divisions and situations.

All but one of the seven arrested officers, have resigned, been fired or are in the firing process. Many of the others, are on restricted duty pending the outcome of their investigations.

Chief O'Brien says he has to be fair to officers because some complaints really are unfounded.

"We don't just terminate them based on an allegation, we have to thoroughly investigate it, let the facts play out and if warranted then we remove them from the department," said O'Brien.

He says if an officer is cleared by internal affairs but then criminally charged later, it doesn't necessarily mean something was covered up.

He says prosecutors can often get information out of officers and witnesses that detectives cannot. He says that was the case with Robinson, now accused of ordering subordinate officers to beat suspects.

"We interviewed him early on in the process, but didn't have enough information to proceed either criminally or administratively on him. The district attorney's office had the luxury of being able to work with Parker and Norwood and their attorneys to work out a deal which, in fact, led to information on the sergeant," said O'Brien.

The CEO says he still has full confidence in the police department and its officers.

"To the extent that we find out about these things in advance, I have the commitment from the police chief and the director of public safety that they're going to let me know about them immediately and they're going to report them to the authorities," Ellis said.