GPD Cpl. Chris Webb reprimanded for conduct during GHS dress code incident

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Cpl. Chris Webb, of the Griffin Police Department, has been formally reprimanded for his conduct during a September incident at Griffin High that resulted in the arrest of 34-year-old LaShonda Thomas and her 15-year-old son.

Both mother and son face charges of disorderly conduct in the incident that stemmed from an allegation the juvenile was in violation of the GHS dress code.
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Read the original article reporting the arrest of LaShonda Thomas and her son here:
Mother and 15-year-old GHS student face charges of disorderly conduct
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However, LaShonda Thomas immediately refuted Webb’s account of the incident.

The same day as her arrest, she filed a formal complaint against Webb, stating, “(I) arrived at GHS to pick up my child. When I walk in Chris Webb didn’t even give me or my son a chance to talk. He was yelling, being very aggressive, pushing up and talking to my child who is only 15 like a thug on the streets. I was outside when I address my son to be quiet and to come on. I felt very harassed by him. I would like action to be taking towards him (sic all).”

GPD disciplinary records indicate Thomas’s complaint was sustained.

In a written reprimand, Sgt. Joe Hudson wrote in part, “Cpl. Webb on 09/13/2019 at approximately 0730 you had an encounter with a student and his mother. During the encounter, which was recorded on your city issued body camera you became agitated and unprofessional. It is imperative that we always maintain a professional demeanor and not allow emotion (to) cloud our judgment.”

The GRIP’s Open Records request also sought production of Webb’s body worn camera recording, but it was withheld.

City of Griffin Assistant Open Records Officer Teresa Watson stated, “…the case involving LaShanda (sic) Thomas is still pending in the State Court of Spalding County. The case involving her son is still pending also, but in Juvenile Court. Therefore, we are unable to release the requested BWC (body worn camera) video for Cpl. Webb of the incident at this time.”

While the Georgia Open Records Act permits such recordings to be withheld prior to adjudication, it is not required, and the Griffin Police Department has released these videos prior to the conclusion of some criminal cases.

In response, The GRIP reached out to GPD Chief Mike Yates, in writing as he has long demanded, requesting the video be released.

The GRIP Publisher Sheila Mathews referenced an article published on The Pike County Times website this week that quoted Yates as saying, “Most of the time when we get an Open Records Request from the press for these videos, they are really not subject to the Open Records Act because most of the time, those have not been adjudicated. What we do is try to weigh the value of it and a lot of times, if we can send it, we go ahead and send it.”

Mathews also quoted the Pike County Times Editor Becky Watts’ report that stated, “He (Yates) said that an example of this is the McDowell video when there was a big public interest so they sent it out to show that what was being said was not what happened. ‘There are times when I can’t,’ he (Yates) said. ‘But most of the time, we send it whether it’s subject to Open Records or not…We don’t have anything to hide.’”
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Read Becky Clark Watt’s full article on The Pike County Times here:
http://www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/griffinpolicedepartmentpartIII.html#.XbM1hvVKjIU
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“Just as in the McDowell case you referenced in that quote, the arrest of LaShonda Thomas also generated tremendous public interest, as can be attested by the press release your agency posted on the City of Griffin Police Department Facebook page, which garnered (as of today) 228 reactions, 457 comments and 147 shares, numbers that far exceed the average on the page,” Mathews wrote in her request to Yates. “I believe it is in the public interest to release Cpl. Webb’s body camera footage. There was no hesitation to release a body worn camera recording that indicated one officer’s actions were justifiable and well within the proper scope of policy and procedure. If you meant what you said – that you have nothing to hide – Cpl. Webb’s video should likewise be released.”

Mathews also called for transparency with regard to law enforcement interactions with the public, as well as equitable treatment for citizens and law enforcement officers.

“There was no hesitation to release a public statement alleging certain actions on the part of Ms. Thomas and her son. The actions of a law enforcement officer should be just as transparent, particularly when one is found to have violated the agency’s Standard Operating Procedure during this incident,” she said.
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Read The GRIP Publisher Sheila Mathews full request to GPD Chief Mike Yates here:
Request for release of Webb BWC recording
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Yates did not respond to The GRIP’s request.

The GRIP will continue to follow this story and will report additional information as it becomes available.

Comments

  1. CHRIS GREGORY says:

    Cpl. Webb is a great Police Officer. When he was a patrolman, he would keep a rapport with the businesses in his patrol area and was always very friendly. I think that there is probably more to this story than what is printed here.

    • Of course there’s more to this story. That point is clearly made in the article.
      Unfortunately, the Griffin Police Department has chosen to withhold the information that would give much greater insight and provide clarification.

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