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UG Police Officer Files A Complaint After Being Fired Last Year

UG Police Officer Files A Complaint After Being Fired Last Year

Jay Park, a former police officer at the University of Georgia, filed a complaint on Sept. 22. after being fired last year.

In September 2014, Park responded to a student call for medical attention for the student’s friend, who was intoxicated.

Under the Georgia 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law enacted in April 2014, anyone who is overdosing on any drug will not be arrested or charged if evidence of the drug use is brought by seeking medical assistance. The same applies for those calling for medical assistance for someone else overdosing.

Under the new law, the intoxicated student and her friend who called for medical attention should not have been arrested. However, in the body camera footage of the incident, Park reveals that he is confused about how the law works, unsure if it is only applicable if the person overdosing calls for assistance. Park’s supervisor advised him to arrest the students.

In order to get clarification of the new law, Park contacted Athens-Clarke County Magistrate Toni Pomerene, state Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), who sponsored the new law when it was a bill in the State House of Representatives, and state Sen. Bill Cowsert  (R-Athens). In discussion with those he contacted, Park discovered that the University of Georgia police department was not following the law correctly.

Pomerene contacted UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson, who terminated Park Sept. 29, 2014, for insubordination. Williamson recorded Park’s termination and distributed it to local news outlets. Termination letters from Williamson and Wes Huff, Park’s departmental captain, mention “potential embarrassment that the department would suffer as a result of Officer Park’s suggestion that the department was violating the law.”

Park’s certification has been suspended by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, preventing Park from working as a police officer elsewhere. Park had been with the UGA police department since 2010.

However, since the UGA police department was in fact misinterpreting the law and wrongfully arresting those who should have been granted medical amnesty, Park is now filing a lawsuit under the whistle-blower law against the Georgia Board of Regents, the University of Georgia Police Department, Williamson and two other supervisors.

“Park did his job as a police officer,” said Michael Puglise, Park’s attorney. “He brought to attention the fact that the police department was acting illegally by arresting those who should have received medical amnesty.”

Puglise referenced the video of Williamson firing Park, saying Williamson was “harassing” and “intimidating” Park.

Puglise said that, after Park’s termination, the department began properly following the medical amnesty law.

He said that Park’s termination for insubordination should not stand because of the whistle-blowing nature of Park’s actions.

“Part of an officer’s job is to follow the law,” Puglise said. “Park wanted to make sure he was following the law correctly, so he went out and asked. Is that wrong to find out the correct understanding? No.”

He said that by violating the enforcement of the law, the police department was “putting enhanced profits over the safety of students.”

While Park’s career as a police officer is over, Puglise said, Park is suing for whatever the jury will grant him.

He said that the case has been presented to the Board of Regents, and it is up to them to decide on how to deal with Williamson.

“I would applaud if Jimmy Williamson was fired,” Puglise said.

Puglise also offered thanks to the community who continues to support Jay Park. An online petition asking for Park’s reinstatement and the removal of his alleged insubordination has been floating around for a few months, already garnering more than 4,800 signatures.

Chief Williamson declined to comment on the lawsuit.

If you have any questions about wrongful termination, please visit our website: www.LineschFirm.com

Article By: Maxwell Appley, Visit: www.RedandBlack.com