Ex-DeKalb officer still certified after theft conviction

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:

Loading
DECATUR, Ga. —

When Officer Anthony Robinson was caught on tape stealing cash and lottery tickets, his sentence said he could no longer be a police officer.

But more than three years later, a Channel 2 Action News investigation found him still on the roster and still certified to work.

"We had no idea. Scary. isn't it?" said Ken Vance, director of the Georgia's Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST.

The DeKalb County Police Department fired Robinson in September 2008, right after his arrest for theft and violation of his oath. The department was supposed to have notified POST, the state agency that certifies officers.

DeKalb Police Chief William O'Brien told investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer it must have slipped through the cracks under the old administration.

"The danger in that is he could go somewhere and get a job, and if they don't do a thorough background investigation, they could hire him again as an officer," Vance said.

Robinson and other officers were serving a search warrant at a Citgo Food Store on Moreland Avenue when the store's surveillance camera captured the theft. At one point, Robinson can be seen taking cash from evidence and stuffing it in his pocket. He's also seen ripping off lottery tickets.

"It makes you wish you were standing there to put the handcuffs on him right then and say, 'Give me that badge. You don't deserve it,'" said Vance after watching the video.

But Vance didn't see the video until just last week, after Channel 2 inquired why POST records still list Robinson as "in good standing" and "actively employed" with the DeKalb Police Department.

Under POST rules, Robinson should have reported his own arrest within 15 days.

"Trust is the flaw in the system," said Vance.

The DeKalb Police Department also should have notified POST of when and why Robinson was terminated.

In 2009, Robinson pleaded guilty, and records show he received three years of probation under Georgia's First Offender statute. His sentence also said he was "not able to work as a police officer" and should "surrender his certification as law enforcement."

By phone, the former officer said he had no idea he was still certified and figured the court would have told POST about that provision in his sentence.

"Nobody thought to notify POST," said Vance, adding, "The thing that bothers me is you pass on a problem, and the more they pass on a problem, the bigger the problem gets. Then something really bad happens, and guess who gets the liability? The agencies get the liability for something they may not have known about initially. That's sad."

A new state law now requires the arresting agency to also notify POST and prosecutors to report sentences that affect an officer's certification. POST has already seen a 200-case increase over this time last year.

"We're trying to simplify government and get it down to the most common denominator so the left hand will know what the right hand is doing," said Vance.

He said the only problem with the law is there's no punishment for agencies or officers who fail to report, but failure to disclose an arrest would make it less likely an officer would win his certification back on appeal. Officers who lose their certification can appeal after two years.