You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

EDITORIAL: Tybee Police Chief: Domino effect - Taser incident has far-reaching impact

PART OF the burden of leading a city department - especially a police department - is taking responsibility when things go wrong.

Thus, after three decades of service Tybee Island, Tybee Police Chief Jimmy Price will end his tenure at the seaside community on a down note. He has struck a deal with the city council by which he will come back to work for a week, so that he can retire while not under suspension.

These decisions are in the best interest of the public.

Chief Price's pending resignation comes in the wake of an incident in which two of his officers used a Taser on an 18-year-old autistic man. The police officers apparently took Clifford Grevemberg's trouble communicating and emotional response to being handled - hallmarks of autism - as evidence of disorderly conduct, a charge for which the teenager was later cleared.

Mr. Grevemberg, who had been simply sitting on a curb after the Tybee Beach Bum Parade outside a south end night spot, suffered a broken tooth and scrapes to his face and knees.

Following an inquiry by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the two officers, Travis Daniel, 25, and Timothy Sullivan, 36, now face felony charges. But not for the Tasering itself. Instead, they were faulted for allegedly falsifying their account of the event on the official police report.

The soon-to-be former police chief is merely the latest domino to fall in this avoidable, embarrassing incident.

Both Messrs. Daniel and Sullivan were suspended and resigned June 9. Police Cpl. Javier Valdes, the supervising officer in the case, has resigned, as has Adam Thran, whose presence at the time of the Tasering, Mr. Sullivan allegedly concealed. Mr. Thran was a noncertified (and therefore not empowered to make arrests) employee at the city jail.

That means the city of Tybee Island is now out a police chief, a supervising corporal, two officers and a jailer, all because the officers apparently could not recognize autism and were overzealous with the use of a new Taser.

To be sure, the job of policing Tybee Island can be difficult: The city swings from sleepy-town off-season, to a summer of packed bars and beaches. But sworn officers are granted power and weapons in order to keep the peace. It is incumbent on police supervisors to instill the right training and proper mindset among street cops before they enter sometimes boisterous, sometimes belligerent crowds.

Aside from the personnel issues, a civil suit brought by Mr. Grevemberg is pending against the city.

That means Tybee must now foot the bill for searching out and training the new police officers and jail employees, on top of any damages the court might award the citizen victim.

The Tybee Police Department's lapse - Chief Price's lapse - could end up costing the city a pile of clams.

It's a warning Tybee's next police chief should take to heart.

No comments: