0

Police candidates having problems

By Justin Boron

At least two of the three candidates in the running for Riverdale police chief have major personnel conflicts in their previous work experience, according to published news reports.

Alleged sexual harassment was one of the problems that caused Nathaniel Clark's ouster from chief at the Pine Bluff, Ark., Police Department, a 2002 report in the Pine Bluff Commercial said.

Another candidate, Capt. Charles Long, spurred friction with his employer in North Carolina by incessantly campaigning for the Huntersville chief position despite repeated denials, according to the Huntersville Herald report.

The third finalist is Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Thetus Knox.

WAGA/Fox 5 in the summer of 2003 reported on a scheme during the NBA All-Star weekend in February in which Atlanta motorcycle police officers left their posts and abandoned their duties to Atlanta citizens.

Creative Loafing later reported that one of the alleged police officials in the scheme worked for Knox and it questioned why she was put in charge of the investigation, saying "there are troubling signs that the investigation may be set up to fail."

The News Daily asked the Atlanta Police Department for more details on Knox's career, but it was not supplied on Wednesday.

Attempts to reach the candidates were unsuccessful.

Riverdale City Manager Iris Jessie released the three finalists Wednesday after the News Daily made an open records request.

The small faction of people who had access to the three candidates had emphasized the applicants' strong interpersonal skills and conflict resolution.

But the new information raises doubts about the candidates' qualifications with at least one member of the panel that interviewed each finalist.

"This is the first time I've heard about this," said Dexter Matthews, the president of the Clayton County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"That's very important information," he said. "It would have bearing over whether to hire them.

"We need someone here that's going to clean up the current problems and not someone who will bring new ones," Matthews said.

Clark, who currently works in Atlanta as a revenue officer for the U.S. Treasury Department, was fired by the Pine Bluff Civil Service Commission after a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity report disclosed sexual harassment allegations.

The report cites a history of sexual harassment in the Police Department, starting in 1998.

The Pine Bluff Commercial reported that Clark denied any sexual misconduct.

"This was character assassination at its best. ? Tonight I was tried, convicted and crucified by this commission," he said.

In Huntersville, Long's refusal to back down from candidacy for chief resulted in his suspension and a demotion from the rank of major to captain. He also was relieved from his informal responsibilities as assistant chief, the Huntersville Herald report said.

Huntersville City Manager Jerry Cox confirmed the report but would not disclose the reasons for the demotion.

"Through organization restructuring, Long was major and put back to captain," he said.