DEKALB COUNTY, GEORIGA – A former DeKalb County police detective was still eligible to be a sworn officer, despite being convicted of stealing from a convenience store more than three years ago, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
The Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council only on Tuesday learned that Anthony A. Robinson was no longer a cop and that a court order required him to surrender his certification.
Officials for the state agency that certifies police say a new state law can prevent such oversights in the future.
“It’s already working,” Georgia P.O.S.T. executive director Ken Vance said.
Robinson, 42, pleaded guilty in February 2009 to violating his oath as an officer and theft by taking, after he was caught on film in 2008 taking money and lottery tickets during a police raid.
As part of his three-year probation, he was directed to not “work as a police officer and surrender [his] certification as a law enforcement officer.”
But before Tuesday, Robinson’s status was listed on the P.O.S.T. database as “in good standing.”
“Nobody thought to notify P.O.S.T.,” Vance said.
Reached by phone by the AJC Wednesday, Robinson declined to comment. But he told Channel 2 Action News that “I didn’t know I was supposed to report [the arrest].”
As part of their certification process, all sworn police officers are required to notify P.O.S.T. any time they are arrested for offenses that are not traffic-related, Vance said. The agency then investigates to determine if the officer can keep his or her arrest powers.
“They know that,“ Vance said. “They are taught that in school, but they generally conveniently forget. [Robinson] didn’t report.”
Notifying P.O.S.T. is important, Vance said, to prevent cops who’ve lost their jobs due to criminal behavior from being hired somewhere else as a sworn officer.
At the time of Robinson’s arrest, he was held solely responsible for reporting it to P.O.S.T., Vance said. But the DeKalb Police Department was required to report that Robinson had resigned in lieu of termination, which Vance said did not happen.
DeKalb County Police Chief William O’Brien told Channel 2 that the reporting likely slipped through the cracks under the previous administration.
P.O.S.T. is supposed to be notified within 15 days of an officer being arrested, officials say.
“Two things were in place that failed,” Vance said. “Large agencies many times get overwhelmed and may overlook these things. But the more you pass on the problem, the bigger the problem gets. Then you have something bad that happens … and the agency gets the liability.”
Now, police agencies also are held responsible to report an officer’s criminal misconduct to P.O.S.T.
But that process did not work in November when DeKalb officers Blake Andrew Norwood and Arthur Parker III were arrested for allegedly beating a handcuffed teen, and subsequently resigned to avoid being fired.
Both were indicted earlier this month, along with DeKalb police Sgt. Anthony Remone Robinson, for that incident and for allegedly beating three other shackled juveniles.
P.O.S.T. officials say neither the arrested officers – Parker and Norwood – nor DeKalb Police leaders reported the arrests or resignations.
Vance says a new law is in place that requires a three-tier reporting system.
The arrested officer, the officer’s law enforcement agency and the arresting agency are now required to report to police. Conversely, P.O.S.T. is required to report to respective police chiefs, prosecutors and judges when an officer’s certification comes under scrutiny.
Vance noted only one problem with the new law, however. “There’s really no culpability for the agency or the agency head” that fails to report misconduct, he said.
Still, the law has already begun to work, Vance said. “We have about 200 more cases in the field that we’re having to work than we did prior to the law,” he said.
Robinson told Channel 2 that even though he might have been able to apply for, and get, another policing job since pleading guilty to the 2008 theft, he’s made no effort to work again in law enforcement.
Vance said Robinson could apply for reinstatement, but the chances would be slim.
“But because of that lapse, and his non-reporting, that’s going to make it that much tougher for him to stand in front of the P.O.S.T. council and say, ‘I really would like my certification back,’” Vance said.