Internal Affairs file sheds light on GPD “Facebook” investigation

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The Griffin Police Department has released its Internal Affairs (IA) investigative file on Bryan Jones and Stacy Beckom, who were both master patrol officers before being terminated for their participation in a Facebook discussion that included derogatory statements and threats against Griffin resident Joe Ward.

Lt. Darrell Dix, who works in the GPD Office of the Chief, reported he became aware of the Facebook thread at approximately 11:30 p.m. July 8, when it was reported to him that both current and former GPD officers were threatening Ward. A few screen shots of some statements were posted on Griffin Urban Talk, a Griffin public forum on Facebook.

“After reading the post I attempted to contact the current officers and stop them from engaging in the conversation any further, and I began posting disclaimer information on the (Facebook) page about the contents of the post and the person(s) who had made the posts including former officers Chad Moxon and Brandon Tarrant,” Dix stated in the IA file. “I notified Chief Yates and Capt. Daniel of the situation via email. I spent the next five hours answering questions and stating correct information in order to quell the issue.”

At approximately 7:45 a.m. Saturday, July 9, Yates contacted Dix. Yates stated he had been contacted by City of Griffin commissioners and others to ensure he was aware of the situation.

A series of meetings were held at the Police Department, including one with Ward, Dix and a few others that accompanied Ward. At that time, Sgt. Jeff Smith completed an incident report on the threats against Ward.

An administrative investigation began that day, and on Monday, July 11, Dix met with Sgt. Kelly McKinney regarding a criminal investigation.

By Monday morning, McKinney had already been in contact with Facebook and was working to obtain search warrants and court orders for the content of Moxon’s Facebook account.
“She (McKinney) disclosed that Moxon and Wall’s (another participant) accounts had been taken down by those individuals, not by Facebook, and she was attempting to have the contents preserved by Facebook,” Dix reported.

Dix began to review the initial screen shots of the Facebook thread provided to the GPD and determined it originated on Moxon’s page. Two additional former GPD officers – Tarrant and Adam Wall – participated along with Bryan Jones. Other current employees who participated were Taylor Rich and Mathew Boynton. Two other current GPD officers – Master Patrol Officer Chip Johns and Patrolman Trevor Trawick – did not respond or comment.

After this review, Dix began contacting officers and arranging interviews.

Jones was interviewed immediately – on Saturday, July 9.

According to Dix, Jones was distressed as he was made aware that he was the focus of an internal investigation, advised of his rights under Garrity and signed a Garrity waiver.

“I began my interview by explaining to Jones why he was in my office and showing him a copy of the screen shots. Jones admitted that he did post the statement of ‘I promise’ in response to Moxon’s post about promising to grant him an OR bond if he (Moxon) was arrested for assaulting Ward,” Dix stated. “I then explained to Jones the gravity of his statement. It was explained to Jones that by stating he would grant Moxon an OR bond, he was giving the appearance that he was condoning the action threatened by Moxon, and that by agreeing to grant Moxon an OR bond was taken as an action he would participate in during the normal discharge of his duties as an employee of the Griffin Police Department.”

Dix reported Jones stated he agreed with the appearance of his statement and added that “he did not mean the statement to be taken seriously.”

“He stated it was “meant to be funny” and was a part of the conversation. He (Jones) added that shortly after he responded to Moxon’s comment, he knew it was wrong and immediately removed it. He stated that he had known Ward since they were both in school and that he did not mean or his statement to be taken seriously,” Dix reported. “He (Jones) apologized profusely and became very emotional. Jones stated that he was in the process of moving out of his house into an apartment and was concerned about recent events involving law enforcement officers nationwide. He agreed at this point in time he should have been more aware of the damage that this type of statement could cause.”

Jones was then served with paperwork that placed him on paid administrative leave, and he was relieved of his equipment including weapons, body armor, credentials, gate key and badge.

“Jones apologized again and requested permission to talk to Ward in order to resolve the issue. I refused to give him permission. Jones ended by stating that he would accept the consequences of his actions,” Dix said.

Jones was then escorted to his residence by Sgt. Jeff Smith and Lt. Curtis Keys, who took returned his vehicle to the P.D. parking lot.

MPO Chip Johns, Patrolman Taylor Rich and Patrolman Trevor Trawick were on Monday, July 11, interviewed by Dix.

Each of these officers was advised they were the subject of an internal investigation, advised of their rights under Garrity and signed waivers.

It was determined that neither Trawick nor Johns participated in Moxon’s Facebook thread, and that Rich’s participation did not involve any questionable postings. These three officers were subsequently allowed to return to their assigned duties.

During his interview, Johns did inform Dix there was more to the post than what Ward had captured in screen shots and posted online.

“According to Johns, there was more posts and one that he remembered contained comments by MPO Stacy Beckom,” Dix wrote in the IA report.

Dix then reported on an incident that occurred that same afternoon.

“On the afternoon of Monday, July 11, I was contacted by Chief Mike Yates and requested to come to his office. Chief Yates had been contacted by source that wished to remain anonymous. According to the source, there were additional comments not captured in the screen shots posted by Ward. The source stated that it had screen shots of additional comments made by at least one more Griffin police officer and other former Griffin police officers,” Dix wrote. “That same afternoon, I met the source at a confidential location where it turned over to me a jump drive that allegedly contained screen shots of the additional posts. Upon returning to the Griffin Police Department, I learned that there were additional posts and they were reflected by the contents of the jump drive.”

Dix goes on to explain that comments made by Beckom were among others provided by the confidential source.

Beckom was on Tuesday, July 12, interviewed by Dix.

After being advised he was the subject of an internal investigation, being advised of his rights and signing a waiver, Beckom was shown a copy of the screen shots in question.

Beckom denied knowledge of the Facebook thread until he was tagged by Moxon.

“According to Beckom, when he began posting, he did not read any of the previous posts and had no idea of their content. Beckom stated that from what he saw, he believed that what it was relating to was if people started rioting, they would all be ready and loaded to defend themselves and their families. He told me he had no idea they were talking about Joe Ward,” Dix reported. “When asked about seeing the pictures of Joe Ward in his corrections uniform and seeing the name ‘Joe,’ Beckom stated that he didn’t realize it even then.”

Beckom was then asked to explain how he was able to make comments specifically related to previous statements made by others if he had not read the thread prior to participating.

Dix said Beckom stated “that it was from previous posts that were earlier,” and that he had no further explanation.

Beckom then stated that while the posts were occurring, he received text messages from Sheila Mathews and Mark Ward warning him to get out of the posts.

“In his responses, he states that he did not read the posts in their entirety, had backed out and deleted what he had posted,” Dix stated.

Both Jones and Beckom have filed formal appeals of this disciplinary action.

PART II

The July social media incident that involved both then-current and former officers of the Griffin Police Department resulted in a firestorm among local residents who expressed outrage in response to the derogatory and threatening statements made on Facebook against Griffinite Joe Ward.

Lt. Darrell Dix, of the GPD Office of the Chief, immediately began to address concerns as he also clarified the situation.

“When I became aware of the Facebook posts, it was immediately apparent that former officers Chad Moxon, Brandon Tarrant, and later Adam Wall and Eric Buchannan were still being associated as employed by the Griffin P.D.,” Dix said. “Getting correct information out became a priority in order to avoid any issues. Command staff was notified and responded to the situation throughout the night of July 8, and until early afternoon on July 9.”

In response to their comments, Cpl. Robert Bryan Jones and MPO Stacy Beckom were placed on administrative leave with pay, and Dix interviewed under Garrity all other current officers who were either tagged or participated in the Facebook thread.

Officers who were found to have either not participated or to have not made inappropriate comments – including MPO Chip Johns, Patrolman Taylor Rich, Patrolman Matthew Boynton, Patrolman Travis Trawick and Patrolman Misty Gresham – were vetted, cleared and allowed to remain on duty, Dix said.

Upon completing the Internal Affairs investigation, Dix determined that Jones and Beckom had violated multiple Griffin Police Department Standard Operating Procedures.

According to Dix, Jones was in violation of: personal conduct which reflects discredit upon the city; abuse of authority or status as an employee or official of the city for personal gain or to harm or intimidate others; and twice violated the code stating employees of the Department are to work diligently to maintain a professional image. Any behavior that would reflect negatively on the Department or would violate the public trust is prohibited.

Dix also found Jones in violation of the following city of Griffin personnel policies: knowingly engaging in offensive conduct or using offensive, vulgar or abusive language toward the public, supervisory personnel or fellow employees; and any other conduct which adversely or negatively affects the city.

Beckom was found to be in violation of the following Griffin Police Department Standard Operating Procedures: personal conduct that reflects discredit upon the city; and twice violated the portion stating employees of the Department are to work diligently to maintain a professional image. Any behavior that would reflect negatively on the Department or would violate the public trust is prohibited.

Furthermore, Dix reported Beckom violated the following city of Griffin personnel policies: knowingly engaging in offensive conduct or using offensive, vulgar or abusive language toward the public, supervisory personnel or fellow employees; and any other conduct which adversely or negatively affects the city.

Publisher’s note: Cpl. Robert Bryan Jones was terminated based on his participation in Chad Moxon’s Facebook thread.

Sgt. Brian Christopher Jones was completely uninvolved in the incident and continues to honorably serve the city of Griffin as a supervisor in the Uniform Patrol Division.

The GRIP will continue to follow this story, including the ongoing criminal investigation, and report any additional information as it becomes available.

 

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