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Statham hears report on police incident

STATHAM - The results of an investigation into the August pepper-spraying of a 16-year-old boy by a Statham policeman were released at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

On Aug. 28, Statham police found three male juveniles standing in the middle of Ventura Street. Officer C. D. Moody and fellow officer J. R. Sweetser told the boys to move. Two complied, but one remained in the street and became aggressive, according to reports. Moody told the teen to get on the ground. When the teen stepped forward, Moody sprayed him. He was charged with pedestrian in roadway and obstruction of an officer.

Moody resigned Nov. 13 after crashing a patrol car less than one mile outside the city limits.

An internal investigation showed Moody's actions were within the department's policy, but the City Council voted to have Decatur attorney Laurel Henderson investigate the incident.

Henderson explored whether there had been violations of law or policy.

Henderson's investigation found no connection between the officers' patrol duties and an initial phone call complaining about groups of kids selling drugs. Because the boy "ran his mouth" at the officers, Henderson places on him much of the blame for the events.

She found no violation of the law in regard to false arrest, but did find Sgt. Hinson in violation of three departmental policies: conduct unbecoming department personnel, allowing his personal feelings to influence his professional conduct and filing a report with possibly inaccurate information. Because this is Hinson's third instance of judgmental failure in one year, Henderson recommended a three-day suspension with counseling in supervisory skills.

Officer Moody did not violate policy when he pepper-spayed the boy if he felt threatened by him, the report said.

Henderson made recommendations to the Statham Police Department, including installing working video cameras in each patrol car, giving officers detailed instructions on report writing and investigations, establishing a chain of command, supervisory training for all officers above patrol level, establishing a mentoring program and establish training in community policing.

Statham voted against a measure to install cameras in police cars at a cost of $3,995.

"Cameras would have documented the situation," said Moody, who is searching for another police position. "I'm not out to mess with people. I'm out to do a job."