NORTH CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – After a two-month investigation, state law enforcement agents arrested a former North Charleston police officer this morning on a charge that he roughed up a man in his custody.
Kenneth Ford was fired by Police Chief Jon Zumalt on July 23, five days after a complaint about the incident was lodged against him.
He surrendered about 9:20 this morning at the Al Cannon Detention Center. He faces a charge of misconduct in office, according to a jail employee.
After posting bail, he was released about 12:30 this afternoon.
An arrest affidavit released this morning stated that Ford’s charge stemmed from an incident that started around 10:30 p.m. July 17. The account is based on statements from the victim and witnesses.
Ford “unlawfully detained” a man on Montague Avenue, then took him to a dark location, according to the document. He then “physically assaulted” the man and destroyed his personal property, the affidavit stated.
“This is what happens when you disrespect the police,” Ford told the man, according to the paperwork.
Around 1 a.m., Ford removed handcuffs from the man and told him to find his way home, according to the document. Ford then sent a text message to an officer who had followed him and told that officer to lie about what had happened, the affidavit stated.
During a hearing this morning, Magistrate Linda Lombard called those allegations “serious” and set Ford’s bail at $25,000.
Zumalt, the police chief, said his department acted swiftly to investigate the complaint and remove Ford from its ranks.
The victim filed a complaint with a police the night after the incident occurred, Zumalt said, and he was informed the following morning. The department immediately began investigating and formally interviewed the man on July 20, he said.
“Once that happened, I realized there was some legitimacy to what he was saying had occurred,” he said.
Zumalt said he then called SLED chief Mark Keel and asked him to have his agents investigate the case. Keel pledged to do so beginning July 23. Zumalt said his investigators wrapped up their internal probe over the weekend and he fired Ford on July 23.
“We take these things seriously,” Zumalt said. “As soon as it came to my attention, we began investigating the allegations and then we terminated the officer. It’s not like we sat on this at all.”
The North Charleston Police Department, however, had denied requests for the termination’s circumstances in spite of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
At the time, a department spokesman said the agency had no record of it, and a SLED spokeswoman said the state also did not have a complaint document.
Paperwork submitted by Zumalt to the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy stated only that the State Law Enforcement Division had opened an investigation — which started two days after the complaint — and that Ford was accused of abusing the man and being deceptive about it to the Police Department.
Ford was in his first year as a North Charleston police officer.
He resigned from the Mount Pleasant Police Department in October to take the new job, according to a training-history report acquired from the Criminal Justice Academy after a FOIA request.
Before joining Mount Pleasant’s police force in March 2009, he had served as a correctional officer at the Al Cannon Detention Center since September 2007.
The documents do not indicate any earlier disciplinary issues with Ford.