A state regulatory agency that certifies the training of Georgia law enforcement officers has stripped Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill’s certification for two years because of his accidental shooting of a female friend in 2015.
The decision by the Georgia Peace Officers Standard and Training Council comes seven months after Hill pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct in the shooting of Gwenevere McCord at a Gwinnett County model home where she worked as a real estate agent. Hill used the state’s First Offender Act to avoid a criminal record.
McCord was shot as Hill reportedly showed her “police tactics.” McCord had numerous surgeries and other procedures. She lost a kidney, spleen and part of her large intestine as a result of the shooting, her father said. McCord, her family, and Hill maintain that the shooting was an accident.
The ruling, which occurred during POST’s quarterly meeting March 8, was made based on Hill’s criminal arrest in connection with the shooting, POST spokesman Ryan Powell said Monday. The agency’s action does not change Hill’s duties as sheriff, Powell said.
“He’ll still be able to continue as sheriff and carry a gun,” he said. Hill’s arrest powers remain as well.
Efforts to reach Hill by phone and email were unsuccessful. His attorney Mike Puglise also could not be reached on Monday.
Hill has 30 days to appeal the decision, said Powell. If he doesn’t, the certification probation “will be the final sanction.”
If Hill appeals, a hearing would be conducted to determine if the two-year probation is appropriate, Powell said.
POST is responsible for licensing Georgia’s law enforcement officers. The council consists of sheriffs, police chiefs, mayors, and members of city councils from around the state.
Its decision means that Hill can’t have any other infractions, such as being arrested again or have any disciplinary action imposed against him during the next two years, Powell said.
While under probation, Hill will be required to take courses on firearms training and ethics. Hill has been a certified officer since 1992.
Powell said he was “not sure of the last time we’ve placed a sheriff’s certification on probation but we’ve revoked a few.”
Terry Norris, who serves as an advisor to POST, said the group “treated Sheriff Hill like they would any other officer with a similar type incident.” Norris is executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.
The shooting wasn’t the first brush with the law for the sheriff.
In July 2013, a Clayton jury acquitted Hill on two dozen racketeering charges stemming from his first term in office, 2004-2008. Prosecutors charged Hill with stealing from taxpayers by using his county issued credit card, county cars and the county gas pump to take a series of personal trips in 2008 to the Georgia mountains and the South Carolina coast.
The county’s top government official said he knew POST would take some kind of action.
“I respect the POST council’s decision if they deemed it necessary to suspend his certification,”said Clayton Commission Chairman Jeff Turner, a former police chief of Clayton.