Former Pembroke Police chief Mark Crowe had been under the scrutiny of city officials for a number of reasons since at least April 2012.
That’s according to documents regarding his termination released by the city following a Freedom of Information Act request by the Bryan County News.
Among the information contained in the documents:
Crowe was officially fired June 11, a day after the city released a written statement announcing his resignation and the appointment of Sgt. Stacy Strickland as interim chief.
At the time, Crowe said he had been given the option of accepting a demotion, apologizing to local body shop owner and former Pembroke council member Joey Burnsed over Crowe’s awarding a bid to repair patrol cars to an out-of-county body shop, or being fired. He then said he would go to work but was told he had been terminated.
Crowe, who attended the most recent City Council meeting with family members and supporters, has since referred questions to his lawyer, Hinesville attorney Jeff Arnold.
Arnold did not return a phone call by press time Tuesday. City officials have declined comment, saying it’s a personnel issue.
But the June 11 letter addressed to Crowe said he was being dismissed for “conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer, violation of the city’s personnel policies on social media, inefficiency and negligence, and immoral or indecent conduct,” including “abusive or threatening language to any employee and the making of false or malicious statements or defaming another employee, city official or the city,” the letter, signed by Mayor Mary Warnell, said.
Also released by the city under the FOIA request was an interoffice memo to Crowe dated April 11, 2012.
The memo was about an April 2, 2012, police committee meeting involving Crowe, former city attorney Carol Bacon Miller, Warnell and council members Diane Moore and Tiffany Walraven.
According to the memo, an unnamed council member was given a copy of a photo of evidence from a March 19, 2012, drug bust posted to Facebook by former PPD officer Matthew Lynn. Crowe reportedly posted comments on the photo saying “Looks like Eric is a POT HEAD or just a dumb a___!!!!!!!,” the memo said, noting it had been reported that Pembroke officers were using Facebook to brag about the number of arrests and tickets given and that they are making quota.
Also raised in the memo was the issue of PPD officers smoking in city-owned vehicles at both Bryan County High School and Bryan County Middle School, where officers direct traffic in school zones.
In addition, the memo said Lynn was spotted buying beer in uniform at a local convenience store and getting into his police car afterward.
“Even though he may have been off duty, he was still in uniform and driving a city vehicle,” the memo said. “No officer or city employee should purchase alcohol while on duty, while in uniform, nor while in a city vehicle.”
Issues regarding the city’s ride along policy, the scheduling of officers’ work hours and Crowe’s own work hours were also raised in the memo, which claimed Crowe was hard to locate during business hours.
The memo ended with three recommendations:
First, Miller was to find someone to audit and evaluate the department and work with Crowe to update standard operating procedures. She was to give the City Council a recommendation by its April 9 meeting.
In addition, Crowe was to report regularly to the police committee.
Lastly, both Miller and the police committee were to meet with members of the PPD to review the city’s policies on social media, smoking, buying alcohol and the ride-along policy.
A copy of the memo was placed in Crowe’s personnel file, it said. He has said he had never been told of any wrongdoing.
Also dated April 11 was a handwritten note on one of Crowe’s pay statements warning him if he didn’t turn in a timesheet by 9 a.m. on the Wednesday of each pay period he wouldn’t receive a check the next payday.
The records also include memos dating back to August 2012 from Crowe and director of Public Safety and Homeland Security William Collins, a former Pembroke Police chief, regarding police response during specific flooding incidents and increased workload of the department clerk. Also released was a "performance notice" evaluations of Crowe.
The evaluation lists several apparent problem items under the heading “Communication,” including not following the chain of command, the death of a child at a bus stop, GBI Task Force, city stats and safety meeting completion.
They also include checkmarks, either from Collins or Crowe, and largely illegible notations.
Under the heading, “Performance notice tasks,” Crowe is given a number of orders with completion dates. It appears some of those tasks were completed, though other items were followed by question marks and illegible writing.