Avery must get certified

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell said Monday that he wants the chief of police to be a fully operating police officer.

The position is not just administrative, the mayor said.

Demopolis Police Chief Charles Avery is not certified to carry a gun as a police officer. A recent surgery caused him to not qualify in firearms training, Avery said, and last week he said he would be taking the training test in the next few months.

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The lack of certification was discovered by city officials when Demopolis Police Officer Tony Gary filed a complaint with the Alabama Peace Officers Standards Training Commission a few months ago, Caldwell said.

Gary was indicted by a Marengo County Grand Jury November 5, 2001 for second degree assault on a suspect during an arrest in April of that year. He is on administrative leave from the Demopolis Police Department without pay.

…We have asked for the information from the doctors as for how long, but we have not received it."

Caldwell said the city would wait "a reasonable amount of time" for Avery to be recertified, however, waiting until the end of the year would not be reasonable.

Gary has also gone on record as saying a firearm training certificate was falsified for Avery. "Chief Avery forced me to sign a certificate saying he passed and directed me to give him a score of 80 when 70 was a passing score," Gary said in a statement to The Demopolis Times.

Chief Avery did not take the firearms test when he told me to give him a passing score," Gary said.

The time in question of the falsified record is some time at the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001. Gary acted as firearms instructor from 1991 to 2001.

An investigation into Gary’s allegation is ongoing, said Demopolis Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel.

Gary has also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming racial discrimination, Manuel said, and that investigation also is continuing.

Mayor Caldwell said he had no knowledge of Avery’s 1985 harassment conviction in Greensboro at the time Avery was appointed as chief of police. The mayor said he found out about it later.

Caldwell said Avery was put

on at least a 30-day suspension which the mayor said was appropriate.

The mayor briefly viewed records provided by The Demopolis Times from the Greensboro Municipal Court. However, "without knowing the circumstances and not being a member of the council or the mayor at the time, I don’t have any idea of the facts of the case."

All he saw in the municipal court records was the statement of the complainant, Caldwell said.

The mayor had little knowledge of a sexual harassment law suit regarding Avery filed against the City of Demopolis by Dorothy Wright, a former employee of the police department. The suit was settled out of court, Wright said, and there is a gag order on the case.

Caldwell had knowledge of Wright working in the department. "She made an accusation, I think," the mayor said, but he referred further inquiries about the case to City Attorney Rick Manley. Manley referred The Times to the Marengo County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

The mayor did not know of sexual harassment complaints by Carrie Rowser, a former employee of the police department and currently a E-911 telecommunicator. Rowser said she reported the incident to police detective Louis Bailey, Demopolis City Clerk Vickie Taylor and then Acting Mayor Charles Jones.

In his time as mayor had Caldwell heard complaints from officers in the department that brought concerns about what was going on there? "In 17 years, I have had numerous police officers come and talked to me about different things and have complained about various officers including the chief." The mayor, city council and the council’s

Public Safety Committee have looked into various allegations, Caldwell said. "I think we’ve taken disciplinary action in some cases….but most of the disciplinary actions that has been taken against officers and other employees of the city have involved either an accident or dereliction of duty, or something of that nature."

Had Avery been disciplined since the 30 day suspension for the 1985 harassment conviction? Caldwell said he could not be certain, right off hand, of any disciplinary action taken against Avery.