White, Georgia Police The Exception Not the Norm

Posted by Richard Lawson | Mar 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

I am intrigued by the news that White, Georgia's Chief of Police and one of his officers were able to pull off one of the most corrupt police schemes in Georgia history. The GBI investigated Police Chief David King and Officer Blake Sheff for arresting people on false charges and later reducing them to citations to collect hefty fines. In my career, I deal with cops all the time; I know cases like the White Police Chief are outliers. However, this brings to light a weakness in law enforcement to which everyone should be aware.  Officers almost never play a fraudulent role, but if you find yourself in a situation like this, you should always turn to a lawyer.

King and Sheff (who have some familial ties) created a scheme to arrest individuals on fabricated offenses. One report was of a woman who was arrested for felony account fraud which, of course, she did not commit. The officers had all the necessary documentation to make the accusation believable. The woman was told to accept a reduced citation for “disorderly conduct” which carried a fine of $1000. If the accused chose not to pay the citation, the officers threatened to pursue felony charges in Superior Court; rendering the accused helpless and pressured to make the “right choice.”

Things to remember if you think something like this is happening to you: 

  • You cannot pay for citations or fines on the side of the road;
  • You have the right to contest any case in court;
  • You have the right to have an attorney at all stages of the proceedings;
  • You have the right to a trial by jury;
  • Police officers have no right to bargain with you once the ticket has been written.
  • Only a prosecutor can decide whether you are ultimately prosecuted and on what charges.
  • Never be intimidated by a police officer. Be respectful but assert your rights.
  • Finally, if you think something nefarious is going on, call the police in another jurisdiction

I'm not all that interested in the motives of these officers because I will never understand the criminal mind. What does fascinate me is how they were able to carry out this behavior for so long without getting caught. The officers have been charged with false imprisonment, theft by extortion, and violation of oath by public officer.

What happened is a rare abuse of police power, and I was most pleased to hear the GBI has stopped this corrupt behavior (that traces back to 2011).  The Barrow County District Attorney's office has stated they will vigorously prosecute this case and shows how different government agencies can check the power of each other.  It is also a perfect example of how our brilliant Founders designed our legal system.

White, Georgia has a population of about 700 people, and the city police department has been shut down until the investigation is concluded. Bartow County Sheriff's Office has stepped up to cover in the interim. 

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Richard Lawson

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