Fired police officer takes position as 911 dispatcher|[3/4/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 4, 2005

The Vicksburg police officer fired last month for assaulting a prisoner has been hired to work as a 911 dispatcher.

Clay Griffin, a 17-year veteran of the department, lost his police job Feb. 10 based on investigation of his encounter with a shackled robbery suspect outside a police department holding cell.

In the new post, he will answer calls and dispatch emergency personnel from the 991 center in the Warren County Courthouse. He will have no contact with people in custody.

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Mayor Laurence Leyens, who voted to fire Griffin at the recommendation of Police Chief Tommy Moffett, also serves on the 911 Commission and said he supports hiring Griffin as a dispatcher.

Moffett also serves on the 911 Commission, but was not available.

The city administration and police chief have become the target of criticism for firing Griffin, who had a spotless personnel record, but then ordering a five-day suspension to a police officer who shot out a tire of a Warren County Sheriff’s Department vehicle.

Griffin’s lawyer, Travis T. Vance Jr., has pledged to appeal the case and the Civil Service Commission will decide at its meeting Wednesday when and if it will hear the case. The three-member panel can uphold, reverse or modify the city board’s decision if it finds the action was for religious, discriminatory or political reasons.

The next step would be to appeal to the Circuit Court.

Vance has said that his client was doing the work of two police officers and was unduly stressed. Griffin, who was a prisoner transfer officer, reported to his supervisor that he had attempted to knee a shackled prisoner after the prisoner made lewd comments made about Griffin’s wife.

In statements given to investigators, the prisoner, Joseph Parson, who is being held in the Warren County Jail charged with the Nov. 20 robbery of the Rite-Aid at 3046 Indiana Ave., said he suffered injuries including a scrape to his ankle, swelling in his right wrist and a scratch on his stomach. Parson did not seek medical attention.

In the shooting incident, Sgt. Virgil Woodall, a 15-year officer, shot out a tire of a dark-colored Ford Crown Victoria driven by Investigator Mike Traxler during a search of an area off Wisconsin Avenue after a burglary had been reported late Feb. 12.

Moffett said Woodall believed he was stopping a suspect in the burglary. Woodall’s suspension was without pay.