A Hall County Sheriff’s Office jailer accused of punching an inmate Sept. 8 had violated several policies and procedures, including unbecoming conduct and use of force, states the jailer’s Sept. 12 notice of termination.
Documents acquired after an open records request by The Times reveal that the sheriff’s office conducted a hearing for the jailer, Officer Dustin Charlton, on Sept. 12, the same day he was informed by letter that a pre-termination hearing would be held.
The decision to fire Charlton, who had been employed with the sheriff’s office since May 2010, was made “after considering the comments and information provided by you” during the hearing, according to the termination document.
The three-page document, signed by Col. Tony Carter, chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, states that Charlton was involved in an altercation with an inmate.
“At the time, (the inmate) was handcuffed and not considered a threat,” the document says. “You grabbed (the inmate) and struck in the head with a closed fist.”
Sgt. Mathew Jones, the supervisor on duty at the time, “gave verbal commands to you to stop.
Officer Charlton, you would not comply with those commands and subsequently, (Jones) had to physically restrain and pull you away from (the inmate),” the document states.
Jones’ account was “supported by statements from other officers who were present and observed the altercation.”
Also, during an interview Sept. 12 with a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, Charlton admitted he was “not truthful in (his) previous written reports and interviews regarding the incident,” the sheriff’s document further states.
The sheriff’s office has requested that the GBI conduct an independent investigation and review the results with the Hall/Dawson County District Attorney’s Office.
Criminal charges are possible against Charlton, who couldn’t be reached for comment, “but that determination will be (made) by the district attorney’s office after the investigation is complete and the case is presented to his office,” said Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, sheriff’s office spokesman.
Carter released a statement about the incident.
“Charlton’s actions are completely unacceptable and do an extreme disservice to those we are sworn to protect, as well as those officers who serve honorably,” he said.
“Policies, procedures, training and supervision are all in place to prevent this type of incident. We expect all employees to be positive representatives of the sheriff’s office and conduct themselves in a professional manner.”
The sheriff’s office’s Internal Affairs Unit is still investigating the incident, Wilbanks said.
Charlton was subject of a 2010 investigation following an uprising at the jail. In that incident, he was suspended for five days without pay for hitting an inmate in the face, an action that was caught on video cameras that monitor different areas in the jail.
“Jailers are required to undergo 20 hours of training annually, consisting of, among other things, ethics and integrity, use of force and code of conduct,” Wilbanks has said.
Charlton’s personnel record also shows a Jan. 13 written reprimand.
On that day, Charlton was observed on camera sleeping in control tower for more than 23 minutes, the document states.
“During this time period, you were the only floor officer (in that jail area) and there were at least three other inmates outside the control room unsupervised,” it further says. “I asked you why you were sleeping in the control room and you stated that you did not get much sleep the night before.”
Charlton has until today to appeal the firing.
Wilbanks wouldn’t comment on whether an appeal had been filed as of Friday.
“We don’t want to jump the gun on answering that just yet,” he said.