Police chief and officer charged
Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 3:53pm
Garry McCord resigned his position as Wrens police chief on Tuesday, Nov. 14 and two days later he and the Stapleton officer whose firearm certification he admittedly falsified sat before a Jefferson County Magistrate who read the warrants for their arrest.
Both McCord and Officer Thomas Farthing were then booked into the county jail, charged with the felony of fraudulently filing a state document, immediately posted bond and were released.
Ryan Powell, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council Director of Operations, said Monday that the investigation is ongoing.
“This really is a serious issue,” Powell said. “Once an officer has been accused of falsifying documents public trust diminishes. I hope they understand the seriousness of what has occurred here.”
McCord, who has been police chief for six years, was first certified as a firearms instructor over 10 years ago when serving as a deputy of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Since that time he has been providing training and certifying officers from a number of local departments free of charge.
“Since 2006 it has been mandatory that officers re-qualify with their service weapon annually and take a use-of-deadly-force class,” Powell said.
According to the warrant, on Oct. 25 McCord, with Farthing’s knowledge, issued an official training record claiming that Farthing had qualified and taken a use-of-force training on Oct. 23, which had not happened.
In an interview Monday morning, McCord said he knew that what he did was wrong. He said the demands of other cases he was working for the city made it difficult to schedule a time with Farthing at the gun range and that he had planned for the officer to join other county deputies and officers in a group training session he had planned for November.
“It was going to be handled,” McCord said. “Was I wrong for what I did? Yes I was; but his chief and him (Farthing) were under the impression that he had to have the training before the first of November.”
During the mandatory training, a certified instructor takes the officers through the course of fire that is used in basic law enforcement training.
“It’s just demonstrating proficiency with a firearm,” Powell said. “It’s a 30-round course where you shoot from the 3, 5, 7, 15 and 25 yard lines. At a minimum you’ll shoot it once, usually you are afforded two or three times to shoot it on the range.”
McCord said that he fully intended to take Farthing to the range to qualify.
“What I did was wrong, but it was for one individual, one time,” he said. “I never imagined I would be losing everything, my career.”
District Attorney Hayward Altman said that in recent years POST is taking a more active look to make sure that law enforcement officers are getting proper training.
Powell agreed, pointing to new mandatory classes in de-escalation techniques and community policing.
“Years ago we probably would not have criminally charged but the instructor would certainly have been stripped of their certification,” Powell said. “It’s up to the DA now as far as how any criminal charges go, but this was such an egregious violation in this instance the agency decided to seek these arrest warrants.”
He went on to explain that if Farthing had been involved in a major case in which he had to have used his weapon and then a defense attorney had discovered that he had not actually attended this training, then all of his arrests could have been nullified.
“They could throw out all charges because failure to receive this training results in a loss of arrest authority,” Powell said. “At the federal level they call it the Brady or Gigglio ruling. If an officer has ever been proven to have lied or falsified a document you cannot testify in federal court ever. Once something like this has been documented, I won’t say everyone is out of law enforcement, but your career in law enforcement is in jeopardy, because of the fact that you can never be trusted again to testify in court.”
According to the code section, if found guilty McCord and Farthing could each face a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.
Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins said last week that the county’s back up firearms instructor will be taking over the classes for local deputies and officers. He went on to say that he was surprised by the news of the charges against McCord.
“He was a good officer for Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and also did good work for the City of Wrens as chief,” Sheriff Hutchins said. “Nobody is perfect and it wasn’t anything to benefit himself.”
Powell said that as in all criminal cases once the arrests are made, the case is handed over to the district attorney to decide on how to prosecute the case.
McCord said he looks forward to having his opportunity to speak in his defense and explain how it happened.
“I love our judicial system,” the former police chief said. “I have to trust our judicial system because this is a system I’ve been working in for years. I’ve been overseas. I’ve seen what happens if you don’t have a system and how corrupt cops can be. I’ve been places where cops ask for money and other places where they won’t even come out until there is an incident. But I’ve got to trust in our system. I love the system. Would I have done things differently? I most certainly would have. This was my first offense (in 24 years in law enforcement). This was my first time doing this.”