2 Investigates: School resource officers with troubled pasts

Updated:

ATLANTA - It's their job to keep our kids safe, but a Channel 2 Action News investigation found dozens of metro-area school resource officers with troubled pasts.
  
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer looked at the records for hundreds of officers who have worked in six local school districts.
    
She found dozens with major disciplinary action and several with arrests.
    
"That's alarming, very alarming. Oh my goodness," said Constance White, the parent of a DeKalb County eighth-grader.
           
More than 50 school officers have been investigated by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) for everything from domestic violence, to shoplifting, to lying under oath. POST is the state agency that certifies and investigates police officers.
           
In DeKalb County, nearly 20 percent of all school officers in the past five years have had a POST investigation. Five are still on the job today.
           
"He choked him, threw him down to the floor," parent Kenya Robinson said of Lithonia Middle School resource officer Willie Patterson back in 2004.
           
POST eventually took no action against Patterson after investigating parent complaints regarding a physical altercation with students.
           
But Patterson's record shows six prior domestic violence incidents had already earned him termination from the DeKalb Police Department and two years of POST probation.
           
DeKalb Schools officer William Gosha is currently on POST probation. The agency disciplined him with three years of probation for violating certification rules, even after a jury acquitted him on criminal charges of battery for domestic dispute in 2010.
          
The DeKalb sheriff banned current school resource officer Bobby Render from the jail after he repeatedly helped a ranking Atlanta Police officer get through a secure jail entrance. Maj. Pearline Williams was later criminally charged for smuggling in a cellphone for her son who was convicted of murder.
           
"I understand that we all are human. But at the same time you are a police officer you have to think before you react," said White.
           
Fleischer showed those records to DeKalb Schools spokesman Jeff Dickerson.
           
"If that's the case, I think there are going to be some people on the board and in the administration who are going to want to look at those cases and look at them closely," said Dickerson, adding that he believes the district could do a better job of following its policies.
           
He also vowed the new district leadership would examine whether policies need to be strengthened regarding hiring and retention of school resource officers.
           
"They're there to protect students, and so we need people who are above reproach in that job. There's absolutely no question about it," said Dickerson.
           
In Clayton County, sheriff's deputies are assigned to work in schools. Fleischer found five of them had POST histories. That school district is considering forming its own police force this summer.
           
In Cobb and Fulton County school districts, resource officers average about 10 percent with prior problems.
           
Anthony Henderson currently works in a Fulton school despite being forced out of two other police departments. In one incident Henderson raided the wrong house with a search warrant. In another, he accidentally shot a man while aiming for his charging dog.
              
In Atlanta Public Schools, six supervisors are the only full time staff assigned to schools. Two of the six had POST histories.
           
Moses Perdue is currently on POST probation after a patrol car accident outside the Atlanta Police jurisdiction. He claimed he was on his way home from work at the time, however records showed he had not logged onto his work computer, and cell phone records located him in another area.
           
The Atlanta police chief demoted Perdue as head of the Internal Affairs division, and he promptly retired. Then he was hired on by the school district.
       
The majority of officers who work in Atlanta schools do so as an off-duty job to earn extra money. There is no special screening beyond being a certified officer.
           
"Schools should not be the dumping ground of officers who cannot cut it on the police force," said former district attorney J. Tom Morgan, who authored a book about school resource officers' impact on schools.

He said students should look up to school officers, not fear them.
           
"If you don't trust them, then you're not going to turn to them for help," said Morgan.
           
Gwinnett Schools Police Chief Wayne Rikard completely agrees.
           
Rikard's two dozen officers have stellar records; not one has ever been investigated by POST for anything.
           
"No anything, that's the kind of officers we're looking for," said Rikard, "We don't want to take any chances on anybody."
           
Rikard said he won't hire an officer who's been investigated by POST, even if no further disciplinary action is taken against their certification. That's because in order for POST to investigate an officer, they've been arrested, fired or heavily disciplined by another police agency.
           
"Our background investigation is something we pride ourselves on doing. We want to make sure we get an officer that has had no problems," said Rikard.
           
Rikard added that his officers also average more years of experience and higher pay, which attracts better quality.
           
"I want to know, what can we do to get that implemented in DeKalb County schools? Because we need that here to be safe," said White.
           
Dickerson pointed out many of the DeKalb school officers who got in trouble after being hired have already been fired or resigned.



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