City fires cop accused in assault|[2/11/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 11, 2005

A 17-year-veteran of the Vicksburg Police Department was fired Thursday following reports that he assaulted a shackled prisoner outside a holding cell.

The attorney for Clay Griffin called the city’s action “unbelievable” and pledged an immediate appeal.

“We’ll go all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court if we have to,” said Travis T. Vance Jr.

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Mayor Laurence Leyens and North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young voted 2-0 for the termination based on the recommendation of Police Chief Tommy Moffett.

Leyens said later that it was a tough decision, but the right one. “The right thing to do was to say that it’s not all right for police officers to hurt people ever,” he said.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman recused himself from the vote, saying he has known Griffin most of his life and attends church with Griffin’s mother.

“I’ve just known him so long that I don’t think I can be objective,” Beauman said.

Griffin, who reported the incident to his supervisor, was suspended last week. Griffin is a prisoner transfer officer and a man in custody, Joseph Parson, is said to have threatened to sexually assault Griffin’s wife. According to interview statements of both, Griffin removed Parson from a holding cell at the police department and tried to knee the prisoner in the groin.

Griffin stated to investigators that he quickly realized what he was doing and returned Parson to the holding cell. He later apologized to Parson and enrolled in stress management classes, according to Vance.

Vance said that his client was doing the work of two police officers and was unduly stressed. He also pointed out that it was the first blemish on his record in law enforcement.

According to human resource records at the city, Griffin worked Monday through Friday and averaged about 45 hours per week for the past year.

According to written reports, Parson did not require medical attention, but told investigators he suffered injuries including a scrape to his ankle, swelling in his right wrist and a scratch on his stomach.

Parson, 26, 2607 Hannah Ave., is being held in the Warren County Jail charged with the Nov. 20 robbery of the Rite-Aid at 3046 Indiana Ave. He is also serving five years supervised probation following a 2004 conviction for assaulting a jailer by biting him on the arm. In 2000, he was also charged with grand larceny and in 1998 Parson was sentenced to three years in prison for burglary.

The first level of appeal for Griffin is Vicksburg Civil Service Commission. He has 10 days to file that appeal, and the commission can uphold, reverse or modify the city board’s decision.

In the past four years, the commission has amended the board’s decisions twice and upheld all the others.

The next level of appeal is Warren County Circuit Court. Two officers have done that and both won their cases. One of those was later amended by the Civil Service Commission and the other one was appealed by the city to the Mississippi Supreme Court.