School system makes unlawful request
Through email, a high level official with the Dougherty County School System asked the system's police chief to clear all warrants and arrests with the superintendent first.
The emails were sent over a month ago. The first message reads as follows:
"Chief Conley, as of today March 15th, 2012, there will be no more warrants or arrests made unless authorized by Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree."
Those were the words sent by the Dougherty County School System's Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Goseer.
Troy Conley, the school's chief of police replied, "With all due respect sir, I will not be able to comply your directive, being that it is unlawful," and Conley has officials backing his claim.
"Unless the superintendent is a police officer he cannot direct anybody to make an arrest or not. In fact the police chief cannot tell any sworn officer when or when not they can make an arrest," says Frank Rotondo, Executive Director for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
Rotondo and people in the community feel this is a public safety issue.
"If a child is in any danger from a disruptive student the police should be brought in and not wait for permission from the superintendent on what to do," says Linda Crain.
Rotondo says although the school police is a legitimate agency that can make arrests upon probable cause, they do have to answer to their governing body, which in this case is the Dougherty County Board of Education.
"If a sworn law enforcement officer makes an unlawful arrest, the governing authority then has the complication of discipline or paying civil suit," say Frank Rotondo.
Although the incident that sparked the first email hasn't been revealed, Rotondo believes it probably stemmed from a lack of communication.
Dr. Murfree wrote through email that he just wanted to be aware of what's going on.
"We are not trying to be unlawful. I am getting hit for not having information and being accused of knowing when I was not informed. We all work for the Dougherty county school system," wrote Dr. Joshua Murfree, Dougherty County School Superintendent.
Officials say keeping the lines of communication open is a must.
"You've got to keep them informed because if they get asked questions by the media or anybody else, they'll feel pretty dumb then they talk to the chief of police and say I'm looking pretty bad and my job depends on how much faith people have in me that we're doing what's right," says Rotondo.
He says the very important thing that any police chief should know is to share whatever information they can legally share with their leader, whether they are sworn or non-sworn.