Case files: DeKalb Sheriff Jeff Mann’s evasion was his undoing

DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann’s admission that he ran from a police officer likely played a far greater role in his downfall than the allegation that he exposed himself at Piedmont Park, according to investigative files released Tuesday.

Now Mann faces removal from office.

The case file shows the evidence considered by Georgia’s police council when it unanimously voted last month to revoke Mann’s certification to be a law enforcement officer.

He will be forced from office if the revocation is upheld on appeal because state law requires sheriffs to be certified officers.

The documents, released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday in response to a request under the Georgia Open Records Act, indicate that investigators took issue with his evasion of arrest. The records from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council include a letter from Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to Gov. Nathan Deal outlining the case against Mann.

“The sheriff’s behavior demonstrated a lack of respect for law enforcement and for the office Sheriff Mann holds,” according to the June 8 letter, which led to Deal’s 40-day suspension of Mann. “Sheriff Mann has placed the credibility of himself, his office and law enforcement in jeopardy.”

Mann pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction and prohibited conduct June 27, and was sentenced to pay fines of $2,000 and serve 80 hours of community service.

Mann declined to comment Tuesday and plans to appeal the council’s recommendation to revoke his certification, said a spokeswoman for the DeKalb Sheriff’s Office. He won’t be removed from office while the appeal is pending.

Terry Norris, executive director for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, said Mann’s decision to run contradicts a fundamental police effort toward greater cooperation with the public. There’s a much smaller chance that police will use force against those who comply with officers’ orders, he said.

“Here’s someone who’s supposed to be leading by example and teaching a message, but he’s doing the very thing that gets people hurt throughout the United States,” Norris said. “When you have a sheriff flee an Atlanta officer, it’s very disturbing.”

Mann admitted to the governor’s investigators that in hindsight, he shouldn’t have run from police, and that sheriffs should be held to a higher standard, Carr wrote in the letter. But Mann denied the allegation of public indecency.

He was arrested for allegedly exposing himself to a man in Piedmont Park around 11 p.m. on May 5, not realizing the man was a uniformed Atlanta police officer. When the officer shined his flashlight on Mann, he ran across 10th Street as the officer yelled, “Police, stop,” according to a police report.

Mann, who had two condoms in his pocket when he was arrested, never gave a reason to investigators for why he was in Piedmont Park, according to Carr’s letter.

One week later, Mann’s attorney read a statement apologizing for “the unfavorable light my arrest has brought on this county.” Mann also suspended himself for a week for unbecoming conduct.

“He should have known better than to run from police,” said Harold Dennis, a business owner and Republican who ran against Mann last year. “You could get a lot of people hurt when you’re on foot running through traffic and trying to evade capture. Especially when you’re the sheriff, it sends a very bad message.”

Piedmont Park was once a popular spot for men seeking a late-night rendezvous, but sexual acts in the park have declined in recent years, said Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee.

Records provided by Atlanta police show 18 citations for indecency at the park since June 2012, including Mann’s arrest.

The small number is likely caused by people finding matches online rather than seeking strangers in the park, Chafee said.

“It’s not as prevalent as it used to be,” he said. “There are different apps you can use. That, along with enforcement, is part of the reason we’ve seen a decline.”


The AJC's Mark Niesse keeps you updated on the latest happenings in DeKalb County government and politics. You'll find more on, including these stories:

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