City explains termination policiesPublished 11:57am Thursday, February 7, 2013
Former Alexander City Police officer Michael Ford was terminated from the force Friday when he was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12.
ACPD Chief Charles Rafford explained that Alexander City has policies that allow it to bring disciplinary actions against any police officer – or any city employee – if their conduct is in violation of the personnel handbook.
“Section 7.10 of our personnel handbook authorizes the mayor, if he determines there is sufficient information to indicate that rules or standards of employment have been violated, to take appropriate disciplinary action including suspension without pay or dismissal, whatever the case may warrant,” Rafford said.
The city has a range of disciplinary actions it can impose, ranging from oral and written counseling to written warnings and dismissal. Usually, dismissal is the final, not the first, step. In the case of alleged criminal charges, a conviction is not required before the city can take action.
“Normally, dismissal occurs after all other disciplinary actions, including a final written warning, have been given and the employee’s conduct has not changed,” Rafford said. “However, the way our personnel manual is written is no different from other cities – if the alleged conduct of an employee is so heinous, the mayor can immediately impose a higher disciplinary action.”
Employees are notified that they may have violated the city’s policy and are given a chance to discuss this matter with the mayor before he makes a final decision on which disciplinary action to take.
Terminated employees have the option of appealing the mayor’s decision.
“The employee has a time frame after dismissal to file an appeal, which generally has to be filed prior to any criminal proceedings taking place,” Rafford said. “At that point, the mayor has a chance to respond to the appeal and then hearings will be held to determine what course of action the city wishes to take.”
While terminating an employee is an internal affair, criminal allegations against an officer are always handled externally, Rafford said.
“Once we uncover allegations like this or even if there is a traffic accident involving one of our vehicles, our standard policy and procedure is to enlist the help of an outside agency to conduct an investigation,” Rafford said. “That keeps it fair and objective – it ensures that the investigation is conducted the same way on an officer as it would for any citizen in this community.”
In the case of Ford, the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department was called in to conduct the investigation.
Mayor Charles Shaw said that the city always attempts to hire the best caliber officers it can.
“We have a great police force, and our chief holds them to high standards,” Shaw said. “Unfortunately, you may occasionally have one that doesn’t follow the rules, but our police department and chief work quickly to address that.”
Rafford said this is the first time that felony charges have been brought against an officer since he became chief of the department in 2007.