5 Houston detention officers disciplined in 3 unrelated incidents

bpurser@macon.comFebruary 25, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Five detention officers at the Houston County jail were punished or face disciplinary action in three unrelated incidents.

Officer Rick Griffin, 40, who was assigned to the jail warehouse, was terminated Monday for conduct unbecoming a jail detention officer and for not initially being truthful about the incident that led to his firing, said Houston County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Billy Rape.

Griffin, who worked for the sheriff’s office at the jail since January 2009, took an inmate who was on work detail to the home the inmate shared with his girlfriend in Warner Robins on Feb. 4 to a check on a gate that was down, Rape said. A neighbor saw the inmate in his jail jumpsuit in the yard and notified the sheriff’s office, Rape said.

“We don’t take inmates to private residences for any reason,” Rape said.

The trip was made when the inmate was with the detention officer to pick up supplies, drop off a donation of worn uniforms to Goodwill and take scrap metal to a recycling center in Warner Robins, Rape said.

Griffin was first suspended without pay pending termination, Rape said. Griffin represented himself at an appeal hearing Thursday in which the firing was upheld. The sheriff signed a letter of termination Monday, Rape said.

Griffin declined comment.

Cpl. Charles Gleason, 51, who was over the operation of the warehouse, resigned Monday after he was suspended Feb. 20 without pay pending termination in an unrelated incident, Rape said.

Gleason, who has been with the sheriff’s office at the jail since February 2006, was disciplined for conduct unbecoming a jail detention officer and for violating standard operating procedures for attempting to make an inmate purchase a $729 remote controlled airplane from the officer, Rape said.

Gleason, who heard the inmate had come into some money, told the inmate he would pull him off work detail and put him back in the jail pod if he didn’t buy the airplane, Rape said. No money exchanged hands, Rape said.

Gleason declined comment.

Lt. John James, 40, a shift commander at the jail, was suspended without pay pending termination for an incident Feb. 2 in which he is accused of firing an airsoft pellet gun near inmates who were on work detail taking out trash from the jail, Rape said.

The pellets hit a metal door of the jail, with the sound frightening the two nearby inmates, Rape said. The inmates were not hurt, and the door was not damaged, he said.

James, who has been with the sheriff’s office since March 2007, was apparently joking around, but such conduct is inappropriate for a detention officer, Rape said.

James has until March 4 to decide whether he will appeal the Feb. 20 disciplinary action and request an appeal hearing, Rape said. The disciplinary action was taken against James for conduct unbecoming a detention officer, for not being truthful about the incident and for not being at his duty station, Rape said.

James could not be reached for comment.

Two other detention officers were disciplined for failing to report James’ actions, Rape said. Sgt. Shaun Westbrook, 45, who has been with the sheriff’s office since October 1999, was suspended for three days without pay and placed on six months disciplinary probation, Rape said. Suspensions of three days or fewer cannot be appealed, he said.

Deputy Craig Pearce, 47, who has been with the sheriff’s office since May 2008, was suspended for five days without pay and placed on a 12-month disciplinary probation. He has the right to appeal but has not indicated yet whether he will, Rape said.

Pearce was suspended for a longer period of time because he was present when the incident happened and initially denied it, while Westbrook was not present but knew of the incident and failed to report it, Rape said.

Pearce declined comment, while Westbrook could not be reached for comment.

Rape said the incidents were random.

“They just happened to surface at the same time,” Rape said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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