Board keeps 'terminated' officer

ALBANY, Ga. -- After being told to report all serious incidents, Dougherty County School System Police Department officer Keith Frazier allegedly continued not to report significant incidents to Chief of Police Troy Conley.

Frazier's police work recently was brought into question after it was recommended by Conley that Frazier be terminated from the school system police department April 21 due to his failing to notify Conley of serious incidents/intelligence and for dereliction of duties as a law enforcement officer.

Frazier's termination was brought before the Dougherty Board of Education at its May 26 board meeting, but it wasn't approved after it received a 3-1-3 vote. Board members David Maschke, Emily Jean McAfee and Michael Windom voted to terminate Frazier; Milton Griffin voted against termination; and Velvet Riggins, James Bush and Anita Williams-Brown abstained.

The Albany Herald filed an Open Records request for any documents regarding the employment of Frazier pertaining to gang activity, weapons and his investigation of such issues. It also sought any documents regarding his discipline or dismissal given to the Board of Education. The request provided 28 pages of documentation.

One of the most serious allegations against Frazier was a bus driver reporting a student possibly possessing a shotgun three weeks before several fights broke out simultaneously between rival gangs April 9 at Merry Acres Middle School, where Frazier was assigned. Bus driver Alfred Davis III filed a report about the alleged March 19 incident on April 15, which Frazier signed as well. The report reads:

"I noticed four black males standing in the alley at the gravel road. They seem to be waiting for someone. After I parked the bus, I notice two of the guys watching the bushes near where they stood. As the children started walking out of the building, one of the guys got a long object wrapped in a brown jacket, out of the bushes and gave it to (a student). (The student) walked toward the side of the bus.

"The other two guys stood in plain sight about 8 ft away for the bus on the side. (The student) approached the open doors of the bus and was hiding behind them. I then closed the bus door and He walked backward to the rear of the bus and turned and ran back to the gravel alley along with the other three guys.

"There he put the long object back into the bushes. I notice (Assistant Principal) Dr. (David) Hamilton coming toward the bus, His face was red as fire, as he passed by the bus door, I shouted to him saying, 'Hey man! You better watch those guys, they had a long object under a brown jacket it looks like a gun, you better watch out!' Mr. Hamilton kept walking, I wasn't sure whether he heard me or not. After that the children was getting on the bus and I stopped watching."

According to information in the Open Records request, Frazier failed to notify Conley of the possible shotgun incident, which was one of the incidents Conley used to support his termination recommendation on April 21.

In a meeting with Superintendent Sally Whatley and Human Resources Director Tracy S. Williams on May 11, Frazier said he didn't tell Conley about the incident because he lacked "facts."

"The bus driver stated that he saw something, but he did not know what it was. It could have been a pair of shoes, I don't know," Frazier said, according to a transcript of that meeting provided through the Open Records request. "All I can do is go by the facts; I can't go by what you think it could be or what not. ... I don't know what he had, but he trespassed and to this day nobody has came to me and said that there was an actual gun on the campus and they could identify or put this man with a gun. No gun has been produced as far as I know."

Not notifying Conley about the alleged shotgun incident became a bigger issue after the April 9 incident at Merry Acres. According to the DCSS police report, a "fight caused a major disruption at the school in which one teacher was injured as a result of being trampled by several students."

A follow-up investigation on April 12, indicated that two students were attempting to fight each other. The investigation revealed that one student was associated with a gang known as the West Side Boys and the other was associated with a gang known as the South Side Boys. Hamilton reported that the gangs had been causing recent problems at the school. After viewing several videos of the incident, the report stated that the students were later charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting a public school.

Hamilton later told Conley that he had conducted several meetings regarding the ongoing gang problem and weapons at the school. This caused Conley to ask Hamilton why he or the Dougherty County School System Police Department hadn't been informed about the incidents or meetings. Hamilton told Conley that Frazier was present at all the meetings and "was aware of the concerns," according to Conley's termination letter to Whatley and Deputy Superintendent Carlos Keith.

Conley instructed Assistant Chief of Police J.C. Phillips to conduct an internal investigation into the incident. He found that West Side Boys and South Side Boys gang members reported seeing one of the students/gang members with a shotgun, both on and off the school's campus. Three of the students were charged criminally as a result of their violent activity.

"It is apparent that Officer Frazier had no intention to investigate this extremely serious and potentially deadly matter or inform Chief Conley or me about it," Phillips wrote in his report.

In January, Phillips allegedly observed Frazier driving back to his assignment at Dougherty Middle School in his personal vehicle at lunch time. Frazier allegedly had not "called out on the radio to report that he was leaving the campus and did not report being back on campus," according to a letter written by Phillips to Conley on Jan. 7.

A week later, on Jan. 14, Conley gave Frazier a written reprimand after he failed to notify Conley of a DCSS student being "assaulted by his hair being set on fire." In Frazier's report, the victim complained that he "felt his scalp burning" and when he "touched his head some of his hair fell out."

On May 4, Frazier sent the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a letter with the subject, "Hostile Work Environment." Frazier alleged that he wasn't paid for mandatory training classes in December, he questioned overtime opportunities and said that Conley used profanity when the chief spoke to him. He also alleged that co-workers told him in February that Conley was "out to get you," according to Officer Shebbie Williams. Lt. Ted Thomas allegedly told Frazier to "be careful because I think he's trying to get you."

Since Whatley's recommendation for Frazier's termination wasn't approved by the majority of the Board of Education in its 3-1-3 vote May 26, the administration still has the option of disciplinary action that could include suspension without pay or other disciplinary measures. Board approval of such actions is not required.