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Jailer suspended after being accused of striking inmate Sunday

POSTED: January 3, 2013 11:48 p.m.

A jailer employed by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office has been suspended with pay, pending an investigation into an allegation that he struck a handcuffed inmate on Sunday.

David Pirkle was suspended on Wednesday “after being involved in an altercation inside the Hall County Jail,” according to a news release from Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff’s officials have requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an independent investigation into the matter.

The case remains under investigation by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division.

Pirkle was hired in August 2011.

Wilbanks said suspension with pay is customary while an incident is still under investigation and no wrongdoing has been confirmed.

The sheriff’s office is mum on other details.

“Further information will be released at the conclusion of the investigation,” states the release.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead confirmed that his agency is investigating the incident but deferred to the sheriff’s office for further comment.

Sheriff Gerald Couch wouldn’t comment on the Pirkle investigation, but he said he is concerned about recent incidents at the jail.

“It causes me concern anytime the professionalism of our delivery of services is questioned,” he said.

Couch said he plans to emphasize solid recruiting, training and development practices throughout the department.

Also, he’ll probe past hiring practices and how background investigations were conducted.

Ultimately, the goal is to have the “most professional staff in the state,” he said.

The incident follows closely on the heels of an incident involving a Hall County ex-jailer.

Dustin Charlton was charged last week with using excessive force on an inmate after a Sept. 8 incident that resulted in his firing.

He was charged Wednesday with one count of simple battery, a misdemeanor, and one count of violation of oath of office, a felony, authorities said.

Officials said Charlton punched an unruly inmate on the head after the inmate was under control and in handcuffs.

The GBI investigated the case at the sheriff’s office’s request, though the sheriff’s office did its own internal investigation before firing Charlton on Sept. 12, citing violations of several policies and procedures, including unbecoming conduct and use of force.

Charlton, who is free on $15,000 bail, also was investigated in 2010 following an uprising at the jail.

In an incident captured on surveillance video, Charlton struck an inmate in the face and was restrained by other law enforcement afterward. For that incident, he received a five-day suspension without pay.

Then-jail commander Capt. Mark Bandy also was involved in the incident, in which he tapped inmates in the head with his foot while they lay on the ground handcuffed. He was suspended one day for unbecoming conduct in that incident.

Bandy retired from the sheriff’s office in October.

 


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