Former solicitor files complaints against officer

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

PORTERDALE -- An internal investigation into complaints against a Porterdale Police sergeant has resulted in two verbal reprimands for fraternizing with City Council members and presenting an unprofessional image.

Former Porterdale solicitor Qader Baig, who is Rockdale County's attorney, lodged four complaints against Sgt. Jason Cripps on May 13, including an accusation of fraternizing with certain City Council members, which gave the appearance of "a relationship to gain personal and/or professional influence," according to the internal investigation findings reported by Police Chief Geoff Jacobs.

According to Jacobs' report, Baig pointed out that the fraternization "had been occurring for quite a long time and is in violation of our SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)."

Jacobs, who had been on the job for five months at the time of the internal investigation, wrote that he had seen notations in Cripps' file indicating prior similar behavior, but no action had been taken. Jacobs wrote that he had also noticed this behavior and had spoken to Cripps about it, "although I do not believe his relationships with certain members of council are in whole or in part for the primary purpose of personal and/or professional gain," Jacobs wrote.

In determining the disciplinary action for fraternization, Jacobs wrote that he would consider the fact that he did not consider Cripps' actions to be intentional and the fact that prior administrations had failed to address the behavior.

Other complaints lodged by Baig were that Cripps was "out of line" with Baig's assistant at a court session by speaking to her in a demeaning manner and "giving the appearance of being disrespectful toward her at a hearing by making inappropriate facial gestures;" consuming alcohol at a public event in Porterdale and then responding to an auto accident in his patrol unit; and acting unprofessionally in the handling of the Police Department's K-9 unit.

Baig's complaints against Cripps were brought to the attention of City Manager Bob Thomson on May 13, six days after Cripps was seen drinking at an event and then responding to an accident. It was also 11 days after the Porterdale City Council voted to advertise for applicants for Baig's city solicitor position and the Municipal Court judge position, with some council members citing dissatisfaction over the way court is operated.

Thomson turned the internal investigation over to Jacobs, who met with Baig on May 16. Baig resigned as city solicitor on May 23.

According to Jacobs' report, Baig alleged that on May 7 Cripps "responded to an accident call from the Porterdale Bar & Grill after having been drinking. In fact, he not only went to the accident scene after having been drinking, he also went back to his home, picked up his patrol unit and returned to the accident scene. Mr. Baig states that Sgt. Cripps was observed drinking beer at the (Art on the River) event, fraternizing with members of council and was seen leaving there under his own power with his wife, going to (Porterdale Bar and Grill) afterwards."

In his findings, Jacobs wrote that Cripps consumed two and a half beers at the Art on the River event and ate a meal. Afterwards, Cripps, his wife Holly and Councilwoman Arline Chapman got in Cripps' personal vehicle and went to the Porterdale Bar and Grill where they met Councilman Robert Foxworth and Councilwoman Linda Finger. Based on his investigation, Jacobs reported that Cripps drank only water at the bar. At about 11:40 p.m. Cripps received a phone page of an accident on South Broad Street. Jacobs wrote that Cripps and his wife left the bar and drove to the accident scene to help. Cripps then went home, got his patrol unit and returned to the accident scene.

Jacobs' calculations of blood alcohol level based on Cripps' weight, the amount of alcohol consumed, time period of consumption and gender determined that Cripps' blood alcohol level would have been "negligible."

"Nonetheless," Jacobs wrote, "the fact that an off-duty police officer was seen leaving a bar in plain clothes and responding later to an accident scene in a police car, and after having been at a drinking event earlier in the evening, creates a terrible perception of the officer to our public and ultimately is really what matters. All law enforcement officers must endeavor to keep themselves out of that equation."

In response to the complaint about Cripps' behavior in Municipal Court, Jacobs imposed a corrective interview on respect and courtesy when dealing with Municipal Court professionals.

The complaint regarding misconduct in the handling of the Police Department's K-9 was determined to be unsubstantiated.