METRO ATLANTA / STATE NEWS 3:01 p.m. Friday, May 20, 2011
By Rhonda Cook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A captain with the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office saw his career begin to unravel a few weeks ago after he posted on his personal page on Facebook.com comments about President Obama, using terms like “towel headed” and “camel jockey.”
File Sgt. Lewis Rusgrove, who was initally suspended without pay for 10 days, has resigned from the Barrow County sheriff's department.
Within days of suspending then-Capt. Lewis Rusgrove for 10 days, other employees at the agency complained to Sheriff Jud Smith about the assistant commander of the office's criminal investigation division. They said Rusgrove also had said “some disparaging” things to them that made them uncomfortable and could put the office’s objectivity in question.
On Thursday, Rusgrove resigned after Smith went over the findings of an internal investigation into the complaints that were brought by his co-workers.
“I believe in his right to free speech,” Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.
But Rusgrove also had put at the top of his page that he was a captain with the Barrow Sheriff’s Office and in the CID. That earned him 10 days suspended without pay.
“Two days after he began his suspension, a few [employees] came forward and said he had made some disparaging comments to them. I ordered an internal affairs investigation," Smith said.
The internal review found some comments could have been misinterpreted, but others should never had been made, Smith said.
“After telling him the findings, he chose to tender his resignation,” Smith said.
Rusgrove did not respond to telephone messages left at his house Friday, but he wrote in a letter to the sheriff after he was suspended that his comments were of a political nature and did not come out of hatred. He also wrote that his suspension was excessive and violated his rights to express political views away from work.
Smith said it became an issue for him when Rusgrove identified himself as an official with the sheriff’s office.
The comment thread on Facebook.com began as a discussion about “gas being $6 a gallon this summer and he called the Democratic Party ‘damocrats,' " Smith said. "He referenced our president as a camel jockey and made reference to African Americans backing their president. He referred to gays, baby killers and pot heads not blaming President Obama for the gas prices."
Smith said he learned of Rusgrove’s comments when someone anonymously slid an envelope under his office door containing a printout of the page.
“Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard,” Smith said. “We don’t want them [the public] to wonder if we’re biased… Nothing you do on the Internet is private.”
In: Regional News
Tags: obama, deputy, facebook, towel headed, camel jockey, resignation, free speech
Location: Georgia, United States (load item map)
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