Robeson Sheriff's Office Tries to Polish Its Tarnished Badges
Posted October 17, 2007 6:31 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2007 8:44 p.m. EDT
Lumberton, N.C. — Four years after an investigation into corruption in the Robeson County Sheriff's Office, officials said they hope the department can move forward and re-establish its credibility.
In 2003, Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt ordered an investigation into the sheriff's drug unit, which patrolled part of Interstate 95, a well-known drug trafficking route between Florida and the Northeast. It became a federal investigation.
Dubbed Operation Tarnished Badge, the probe found that deputies were stealing tens of thousands of dollars during traffic stops and paying informants with drugs.
"Those are things you see in a Hollywood script," Britt said. “The number of people that were involved really became shocking.”
More than 20 employees in the sheriff's office, including former Sheriff Glenn Maynor, eventually were convicted in the case on federal charges ranging from kidnapping and money laundering to arson and stealing satellite television signals. Britt said more arrests are possible.
"Anytime you're in a situation where you see that much money, there's going to be a temptation. The question is: Can you resist that temptation?" he said. "Ultimately, I think it centered on an attitude. They could do about anything they wanted to do.
“It’s as if they operated under a shield of immunity.”
Robeson County Sheriff Ken Sealey couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday, but the investigation has caused changes in the department.
The sheriff's office created an internal affairs division. That unit recently opened an investigation into three former sheriff's employees accused of having sex with a jail inmate, and criminal charges could result.
Noah Woods, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, said the sheriff's office now has to rebuild its credibility.
"They’re going to have to earn that trust now. You have to prove to me that I can trust you now. But we've still got some good officers out there," Woods said.