Official: 'Political Intervention' Prevented Due Process in Trooper Firing
Posted April 18, 2008 11:59 a.m. EDT
Updated April 18, 2008 7:23 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A senior member of the North Carolina Highway Patrol says he was forced, by political pressure from the governor’s press office, to fire a sergeant without due process.
Lt. Col. Cecil Lockley fired Sgt. Charles Jones after a fellow trooper turned over a cell phone video of Jones allegedly using abusive training techniques with his police dog, Ricoh.
Jones, who coordinated K-9 training for the Highway Patrol, sued the state, alleging that procedures were violated when he was fired in September.
In a deposition Tuesday, Lockley testified that, in his opinion, “unlawful political intervention occurred in this case.”
“If the governor’s press office had not intervened in this matter and (had) let the case run its course, I would not have come to the same conclusion as I did on Sep. 9, 2007,” Lockley wrote.
However, in documents filed in court late Friday, the Highway Patrol said Lockley's actions were not the final decision and that it was ultimately the decision of Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.
"Therefore, any potential violation of policy or procedure on behalf of Lt. Colonel Lockley was remedied by Secretary Beatty's subsequent and independent review of all relevant and pertinent information prior to entering the final decision," the state asserted.
The governor's press office would not comment Friday, citing the pending litigation.
Court documents described the incident, which began when Ricoh refused to release a chew reward, as Jones was tying the dog's leash to a high railing so that only his hind legs touched the ground, then kicking the dog four times to leave it dangling on its leash and collar.
In his lawsuit, Jones cites training techniques the general public might not understand.
Lockley said he felt Jones "acted in the manner he was trained."
The video hasn't been released, and a spokesperson for the patrol says the district attorney is reviewing it for possible criminal charges.
Jones' civil trial begins April 28.