May 14, 2009
It will be Tuesday before Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John releases the findings of an investigation probing reports of police misconduct during a training trip in Vicksburg.
Cpl. Spence Wallingford and officers Wade Beard, Heath Beard and Robert Walker last Tuesday were in Vicksburg for a three-day field sobriety training course sponsored by Sobriety Trained Officers Representing Mississippi, when visitors at the Vicksburg National Military Park reported witnessing officers playing loud music from a Columbus police cruiser and flashing their lights and sirens at passersby.
St. John, who previously would not release the officers'' names, Wednesday confirmed the foursome were the officers being investigated in the incident.
A witness also said two of the officers were riding in the trunk of the car, seated with the trunk popped.
The officers returned to Columbus the following Wednesday, on St. John''s orders, and immediately were placed on paid administrative leave. An apology to park officials and to the citizens of Vicksburg was to be issued.
"Our final report will be made Tuesday night (at the Columbus City Council meeting)," said St. John, noting the investigation is progressing as quickly as possible.
"We''re making sure we got all of the bases covered and we''ve got all of the information," he added, saying, "Nobody''s dragging their feet."
"Because of the nature of this and because of the impact of what has occurred, this is as quickly as we can have it moving."
According to St. John, the investigation is threefold: finding out "what actually happened," determining disciplinary action, and also deciding how the discipline is to be implemented.
"By Tuesday evening, we will definitely have resolve for everybody," he said.
It is unclear how many of the four CPD officers placed on leave were involved in the incident. Witnesses said one of the four people he saw in the cruiser was female. St. John confirmed the reports.
"Another agency''s officer was involved, and that female involved was that officer''s fiancée," said St. John. "The female that was involved did not have anything to do with the four of our guys."
Wallingford, Wade Beard, Heath Beard and Walker remain on administrative leave, pending completion of the investigation.
james commented at 5/14/2009 10:14:00 PM:
I think they should be fireed from the pd.This is no way to show what kind of officer you are.
Tommy commented at 5/14/2009 11:10:00 PM:
Fire them all ! The Columbus police Dept is a JOKE!!!
Dan Hall commented at 5/15/2009 9:50:00 AM:
I'm still at odds why the National Park Service choose not to enforce the law. They are sworn to uphold the law and were lax in doing their job. I'm awaiting the outcome of the investigation as I plan to contact the park service and inquire why the law is not enforced in the Vicksburg Military Park.
Bobby commented at 5/15/2009 10:24:00 AM:
You know, no matter what all we expect from them, Police Officers are people too. Many of them are jerks on and off the job. Law Enforcement attracts jerks and control-freaks. Some join just so they can speed without risking a ticket and flash their lights at people to move so they don't have to slow down... or when they're late for the donut shop.
Still, they do risk their lives constantly. They never know if someone has a gun ready and waiting when they walk up to a car window. What is wrong with them blowing off a little steam? Granted, shouldn't have done it in a squad car, or in uniform.
Sam commented at 5/15/2009 11:38:00 AM:
I agree that the men and women police officers who put their lives on the line everyday have a very stressful job. There is nothing wrong with "blowing off a little steam," but not in uniform, not in a police cruiser, not in a national park, and certainly not by disrespecting another law enforcement officer.
t commented at 5/15/2009 1:17:00 PM:
Park Ranger = Law Enforcement, since when?
JOKER commented at 5/16/2009 6:57:00 PM:
THE COLUMBUS P.D. AS A WHOLE IS NOT A JOKE. THE PROBLEM IS THE STANDARDS ARE NOT SET HIGH ENOUGH AND THE ONES THAT HAVE BEEN SET ARE OFTEN COMPROMISED JUST TO FILL A SLOT. I KNOW MANPOWER IS A PROBLEM, BUT QUALITY IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN QUANTITY.
Sam commented at 5/18/2009 9:07:00 AM:
t: The "Park Ranger" is actually a commissioned Law Enforcement Ranger. They carry guns and can arrest people as Federal Law Enforcement officers. Not all rangers are LE, but the one who tried to stop them is. So, the CPD cowboys ignored an officer with a badge and a gun.
t commented at 5/18/2009 10:03:00 AM:
Then why didn't she use her AUTHORITY as a Law Enforcement Officer and "enforce" the PARK laws?
only in COLUMBUS commented at 5/18/2009 12:48:00 PM:
what is columbus coming to it use to be were you can chill out and relax now all you see is police looking for trouble instead of drug dealers looking for trouble i get pulled over all the time and they ask me the same questions have you been drinking and can i search your car and were i'm going!! it usually be that i don't have a seat belt on the reason they say they stop me or it could be not using my signal. Some columbus police officers are nice and want to help you but some are pissed off they wasn't the popular kids at school or maybe they were the kids always getting picked on so they abuse their authority but what comes around goes around that sense of pride and respect only lasts 12 hours then they get off then walk around in regular cloths with their gun sticking out so people know who they are and sometimes they wear their badge around even when they're not at work not all cops are like this you have your good ones but the bad one's who this describes you know who you are and you should feel bad how you sleep at night i will pray for people like this you don't have to arrest people for everything sometimes when you let people go with a warning they will straighten up most of the time so have a heart
only in COLUMBUS commented at 5/18/2009 12:49:00 PM:
oh yeah i forgot to mention they need to be FIRED asap the less police jerks on the force the better
t commented at 5/18/2009 4:25:00 PM:
OK someone needs to go back to school and learn proper english. "They be", and "it usually be" are not correct english. That is what is wrong with this country. People just barely slide through school, they either drop out or get kicked out and then want to live off of tax payers money by living on wellfare. They are also the ones running around town joining gangs and selling drugs and breaking the law and then they get mad when the police do their job.
Here is an idea, if you are getting pulled over for not wearing your seat belt, how about put it on. And if you are getting pulled over for not using a turn signal, use it. It's that little stick coming out of the side of the steering column. Don't break the law and you won't get in trouble. It is not an algebra equation!!!
Patrick commented at 5/19/2009 8:31:00 AM:
It seems as if to much time passed to determine if the officers in question were drinking. The erratic behavior seems to indicate some kind intoxicant was being used. A shame that the officers who were studying field sobriety displayed all the classic symptoms of intoxication.
t commented at 5/19/2009 12:00:00 PM:
Maybe they were just high on life. Did you ever think about that. It absolutley amazes me how everyone is so quick to jump to conclusions when they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about! Were you there to see if their pupils were dilated or if they could walk a straight line. Oh sure you weren't and the one who was there that supposedly had the authority to do so (the park ranger) did nothing. If she did nothing, then why is everyone making such a big deal out of it. I wish something new would come up so we could move on to something else. There is an old saying that says "let dead dogs lie." Well the dog is dead!!!
Elizabeth commented at 5/20/2009 12:05:00 PM:
I think their being suspended is an over-reaction disgned to protect others above them, as usaual, of course. When I started reading this article I expected so much worse - excitment!!! You know the juicy stuff. Reminds me of the time I got called into the police station for my son skateboarding in the church parking lot. Instead of an officer driving by and telling them can't skate there (yes, they had been told this before but how many times do I have to tell them to clean their room) their boards were taken, the cheif of police came in, parents had to come in and I'm like did they rob a bank? No! they were 10 years old riding a skateboard somewhere they thought was safe on a Sunday, sunny afternoon. But guess all the drama made someone feel more important.
1. Saturday night fire destroys Columbus home COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. After 11 years as EMCC president, Young stepping down COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. 6-candidate race forms for Lowndes circuit clerk COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY