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Tired of sheriff’s department being in negative light

Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick and his administration have been in the news since he was first elected to the position in 2002. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been in a positive light.
Since taking office Jan. 1, 2003, Deatrick has seen several employees leave the sheriff’s department. Some have taken higher paying jobs; others have quit, citing they were fed up with the antics they say took place under the Democrat sheriff who is nearing the midway point of his second term. Many others still with the department also grumble about things, some with merit and some without.
But it’s the allegations of civil-right violations that have been in the forefront lately and have the attention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency charged with investigating such claims as they pertain to the Civil Rights Act, which was signed into law July 2, 1964, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. A search of our online stories turns up 10 stories since June 1, 2004, involving the EEOC and lawsuits, including those filed, dismissed and settled.
In 2004, the EEOC upheld discrimination claims, one by a current employee and the other by a former worker. That ruling led to the county spending $2,000 to provide training for the sheriff’s department in ‘appropriate workforce behavior, including sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct.’
That would have been money well spent, if that had been the end of it. But, the county had to fork out another $55,000 in out-of-court settlements because of lawsuits filed by four other people who were Deatrick’s employees at the time of the allegations.
And who knows where it will stop, as two additional employees just recently filed lawsuits. These new charges, filed by female employees, claim Deatrick has sexually harassed them over an extended period of time through inappropriate language as well as physical behavior.
Deatrick has been asked to step down as sheriff pending the investigation, but he has refused. Instead, it appears the sheriff has taken the approach that he was elected by the people to take care of police matters in this county and that’s what he intends to do.
However, while the jury, so to speak, is still out on the new lawsuits, I would encourage Deatrick to take a less inflammatory approach to this serious matter. If he has done no wrong, the facts will support the truth. But his abrasive attitude is beginning to rub the voters of Harrison County the wrong way.
Deatrick isn’t the first sheriff to have employees say their civil rights have been violated. C. Wendell Smith, who served as interim sheriff after William (Bill) Carver’s death in 2001, claimed it was ‘politics as usual’ when a fired female dispatcher alleged that Windell’s chief, Jodie Wilson, asked her for sexual favors. The EEOC said it was unable to conclude any violation of the statutes and dismissed the action.
I’m not saying it didn’t happen because, generally, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The goal is to extinguish it before it gets out of hand.
Regardless of the outcome from this latest round of lawsuits involving Sheriff Deatrick, let’s hope he has learned to not put himself in a position that could lead to any employee ‘ female or male ‘ to make accusations against him or anyone in his administration. That way, the county won’t have to endure any more negative publicity involving the EEOC, taxpayers’ money can be used for better things and our law enforcement officers can proudly wear their uniforms and badges and go about the business of protecting and serving us.