The Hall County Sheriff's Office recently reinstated a detective who was fired in August after conducting his own investigation into a fellow officer.
Dale Long was employed by the sheriff's office for nearly 25 years when he was fired Aug. 17 after approaching his superiors about what he believed was evidence of another employee's detrimental conduct.
He was reinstated in December after appealing the termination, but with a reduced role.
Col. Tony Carter, who was not an employee of the sheriff's office at the time of the firing, said a review of Long's termination determined the firing was justified, but because of his veteran status he was permitted to continue.
"(Sheriff Steve Cronic) and I reviewed his termination and determined that it was justified. However, in light of his 23-plus years of service to the sheriff's office we chose to give him another chance," Carter said.
Prior to his termination, Long served as a lieutenant in the Criminal Investigations Division, but terms of his reinstatement called for his demotion to sergeant in the Jail Division, which is a demotion of one rank. He also received a 15-day suspension, but his more than three months off the job awaiting the appeal decision was considered part of that suspension.
"Dale (Long) and his attorney both agreed with this decision," Carter said.
Long said Tuesday that he is not allowed to comment.
Carter said Long "is not authorized to give press releases," meaning he cannot speak with the media.
Departmentwide policy only allows employees considered spokespersons to speak with the media.
The termination was signed off on by then-Col. Jeff Strickland, who has since resigned to focus on a run for sheriff of Hall County.
Strickland told The Times on Tuesday he agreed with the decision to reinstate Long.
"I respect Sheriff Cronic's decision to reinstate him," Strickland said. "Sheriff Cronic, as well as myself, believes in second chances. Sheriff Cronic felt that a long-term employee deserved a second chance and I respect that and agree with it."
Carter said the firing was based on Long's investigation into another lieutenant, which was determined to be "conduct unbecoming of an officer." The termination letter references policy violations including insubordination and violating the Code of Conduct.
Long's investigation focused on the belief that a lieutenant, whose identity officials would not release, was often at home when he or she should have been working.
The sheriff's office Employee Handbook and Policy Guidelines does not directly address the issue of conducting investigations into fellow employees, but officials said Long's behavior fell within a broad category under rules of conduct.
According to the policy, unbecoming conduct "include(s) that which brings the department into disrepute or reflects discredit upon the officer as a member of the department, that which impairs the operation or efficiency of the department or the officer, or causes the public to lose confidence in agency of Hall County government."
"(Long) is just like anybody else that works for the Hall County Sheriff's Office," Carter said. "He's expected to follow the rules and regulations of the sheriff's office."
The employee Long was investigating was not found to have violated any rules of conduct and is still employed by the sheriff's office, Carter said.
Carter declined to comment on the issues Long raised, citing incomplete evidence, as well as his unfamiliarity with the situation.
In an interview with an Atlanta TV news station, Long said he felt his firing was based on a political motive because Strickland was friends with the employee who was the center of Long's investigation.
However, Strickland told the station Long had no evidence of any wrongdoing by the employee and failed to cooperate with his superiors.
"I think to be a whistleblower you have got to blow the whistle," Strickland said in an interview.
Strickland told the station it was determined the officer would go home for lunch.
"Long had some type of personal vendetta against this officer," he said.