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Officer's credentials under review

Walthourville policeman downplays infraction

POSTED: July 3, 2009 10:49 a.m.
The qualifications of a police officer in Liberty County are the subject of a formal state investigation into his criminal record.
Walthourville Officer Edward Hobbs was fired from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department early this year. He was one of 13 deputies the department let go during reviews of their backgrounds.
Hobbs says his simple battery conviction in 2005 resulted from misunderstandings and that his former employer overreacted.
Hobbs was certified under the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training qualifications in 2001. Now the POST council is deciding whether the battery charge is reason to revoke his certification. The charge alleged Hobbs battered his wife during a domestic dispute.
Frank Rotondo, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police executive director, said a record showing a history of domestic violence would mean an automatic rejection for initial POST certification.
“If you’re convicted of a domestic violence offense, you cannot carry a firearm,” Rotondo said.
However, the council does consider first-time offenders.
“There’s some wriggle room there, but not a lot,” Rotondo said.
The POST council meets quarterly so it is hard to tell when it will decide the case, according to Brad Pope, POST investigations director.
Pope said he couldn’t discuss details. Hobbs’ investigation started in February.
“There is a requirement in the law that we are to be notified if an individual is arrested or charged,” Pope said.
Hobbs said the incident was minor and he did not know he was supposed to report to POST or he would have.
“What people fail to realize is both of us were officers,” Hobbs said of his ex-wife. “We were going through a divorce. The divorce got ugly.”
Hobbs said the altercation happened when his wife came to the house, knocked a door down and it fell on her.
“No punches thrown. No one touched anyone,” Hobbs said. “Nothing…there was no weapons involved.”
Hobbs called it a learning experience.
Though the case was cleared, Hobbs said it can’t be expunged until next year.
Walthourville Police Chief Terry Harget said the department did a complete background check when Hobbs was hired this March.
“He’s going through a standard hearing, where he’ll probably be exonerated,” Harget said. “The POST is very careful the way they look at people.”
Rotondo admitted employee retention and hiring officers is becoming increasingly difficult.
“What most departments want now…are relatively astute law enforcement [officers],” Rotondo said. “People are no longer accepting people with minimum qualifications.”
Hobbs said he was honest with Harget and Walthourville Council when he was hired.
“I feel this is just some retaliation, somebody doesn’t want the department to succeed,” Hobbs said. “I have some mistakes in life, but who doesn’t?”
Reports about the firings from the Atlanta area department also cited a warrant that had been issued for Hobbs relating to a separate battery charge.
Hobbs said he was charged after forcing an obnoxious guest to leave a Super Bowl party. He said he paid the fine, but records showed there was still an outstanding payment, so a warrant was issued for probation violation.
Hobbs had been ordered to take anger management classes for the battery charge and paid $5,000 in damages.
 

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