Demoted policeman appeals decision

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 18, 2001

[05/18/01] Vicksburg police officer Joe Head has appealed his demotion and suspension to Warren County Circuit Court, asking for a reversal of decisions by the police chief, city board and Civil Service Commission.

Head was dropped from sergeant to patrolman and suspended for 10 days after he joined two other officers at a traffic stop Nov. 26.

According to testimony at Head’s Civil Service hearing, the reason for the disciplinary action was a report by a 19-year-old in the vehicle that she was cursed by Head and told to unzip her shirt by another officer.

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Without dwelling on the facts of the case, commission members said the demotion was within the discretion of police and city officials.

The appeal filed Monday in circuit court states that the commission’s ruling was based on inadmissible evidence. A date for the hearing has not been set.

On the day of the commission hearing, Jackson attorney Kate Eidt, who represented Head, objected to testimony about a polygraph exam Head had taken.

According to the complaint report, the teen said Head directed offensive language at her and her male friend and that Patrolman E.J. Wilkinson told her to her unzip her shirt.

Eidt has said her client was not given a reason for his demotion and suspension and just wanted a chance to present his case.

Wilkinson, who has been with the department for about a year, was also given a 10-day suspension. The third officer at the scene of the traffic stop was Sgt. Mike Bryant who was not accused of wrongdoing or punished.

All three officers testified that the 19-year-old was not asked to remove any clothing or to exit the vehicle.

The officers testified that while patrolling an area off U.S. 61 South they spotted a vehicle parked in a dark parking lot, but as they approached on foot, the driver of the car started the engine and left.

They testified that they later spotted the car and pulled it over near Rouse Rubber Industries Inc. Bryant said that when Wilkinson started to explain why the car had been stopped, the driver became hostile and cursed at the officers.

Bryant said that Head did raise his voice in response.

City attorney Walterine Langford said that his hearing that Head’s loss of control was a breach of his duties to remain professional and polite under any circumstances.

Internal Affairs Investigator Virdell Lewis testified that the teen was given two polygraph exams by the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol that indicated no deceptions. Head and Wilkinson also volunteered to take polygraphs. Both tests indicated deceptions by the officers on one of 10 questions asked.

The action against Head and Wilkinson was taken by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Alderman Feb. 20 based on a recommendation from Police Chief Mitchell Dent.