Trooper fired for kicking police dog wins again in court
Posted February 7, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Charles Jones, who was dismissed from the State Highway Patrol in September 2007 for kicking a K-9, should be reinstated with back pay.
Jones was fired after another trooper turned over two 15-second video clips of Jones suspending his K-9 partner, Ricoh, from a railing and kicking him repeatedly to force him to release a chew toy.
Patrol leaders said they initially planned to discipline Jones but decided to fire him when then-Gov. Mike Easley's office intervened.
In its ruling, the court notes testimony from Jones' former supervisor, Lt. Col. Cecil Lockley, who said, "They want him gone," referring to the governor's office, and "the decision regarding Sgt. Jones' career was predetermined, not by the Patrol's disciplinary process but by an outside entity."
Lockley called Jones' method of disciplining Ricoh "ugly," but said it did not fall outside the realm of patrol-accepted training techniques.
Jones couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment, so it's unclear whether he plans to return to the Highway Patrol. He now works for the Apex Police Department, where he was hired four months after the patrol fired him.
Highway Patrol spokesman First Sgt. Jeff Gordon declined to comment on a possible appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court, saying patrol officers haven't had a chance to review the decision or discuss it with the Attorney General's Office.
In 2008, the State Personnel Commission found Jones' punishment too harsh and ordered that he be reinstated.
Since then, his case has wound through the courts. Tuesday's ruling is the latest in a series to agree that the Highway Patrol did not have cause to dismiss him.
His back pay is believed to be between $200,000 and $240,000.
"We have been confident from day one that Charles Jones was doing was he was told to do, what he was trained to do," said John Midgette, executive director of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association. "These dogs are not pets. They are deadly weapons, and (if they are) not handled properly, people can get hurt – innocent people can get hurt."
The Apex Police Department has promoted Jones twice, and was named the Town Employee of the Year in 2010.
He was also awarded the police department's Medal of Valor and Meritorious Service Medal. Town Manager Bruce Radford said Jones saved lives as the first officer to enter a local Target store after an armed gunman began firing in May 2010.
"We're not surprised by the valor and the credibility of Trooper Jones," Midgette said. "He's an outstanding credit to the profession. What is so sad is what he and his family have had to go through."