Decatur officers forced out due to investigation regarding $7 found in patrol car
This story has been updated.
Two Decatur Police officers, including a lieutenant previously named officer of the year, were forced out of their jobs over a matter involving $7 found in a patrol car.
Lt. Eric Jackson told Decaturish he resigned because he was going to be terminated otherwise. Officer Joshua Speed said he was terminated. Both men have appealed and the city held a grievance hearings last week, City Manager Peggy Merriss said.
Merriss said a decision on their grievances could come in a matter of days.
“There are internal processes are continuing, including a grievance hearing,” Merriss said. “It’s really something I’m not at liberty to discuss publicly.”
An email to the police department seeking comment has not been returned.
Both men gave the same version of events. On Oct. 11, Speed was conducting an inspection on a police car in search of a missing microphone. In the process he found $7 under the driver’s seat. Speed said his initial reaction was, “Oh, cool money.” Without really thinking it through, he gave $2 to Jackson and kept the remaining $5. Another officer suggested filing a report, but Speed decided to locate the officer who owned the money personally because he said doing the paperwork on it would be an administrative headache.
“So I stuck it in my pocket with the intention of to find out who it belonged to,” he said.
Speed said he didn’t consider the implications of giving Jackson the $2 because officers give each other small amounts of money routinely for buying coffee, lunch and other small expenses.
Jackson, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, said he didn’t really think about the implications of taking the $2 either.
“That was improper, but I wasn’t thinking,” he said. “It was improper. I get that. I finished my shift. I had too much other crap on my mind. I didn’t spend it.”
Jackson, an 11-year veteran, was previously named officer of the year and was promoted to lieutenant in 2015. He said he was the only black officer in the department to hold the rank of lieutenant or higher, and he was studying for his captain’s exam. He said he had write-ups before that included being late as a rookie officer and getting into vehicle accidents. Jackson said shortly before his forced resignation he questioned the amount of citations for equipment and headlight violations written by an officer because they were being given primarily to black drivers.
“We normally write warnings for that,” Jackson said.
The officer that Jackson called out for the citations is the one who initiated the complaint about the $7, Jackson said.
Speed had been an officer for nearly eight years and had never had any problems.
“It’s blowing my mind this has happened the way it has,” Speed said. “I thought it was going to be handled and resolved.”
Jackson said he was forced to resign under threat of termination on Oct. 18 due to the failure to report the $7 found in the patrol car. He said he hasn’t looked for another job since leaving the city of Decatur.
“I gave the city my heart,” Jackson said. “I’ve been there 11 years. I know a lot of people in the city. It took a toll on myself and the family you just can’t move on and start something else overnight when you haven’t healed.”
Speed said if his termination stands it will likely mean the end of his career as a police officer because he was accused of stealing the money found in the patrol car.
“There aren’t going to be any departments worth anything that would have me back,” he said.