Georgia’s police oversight council voted unanimously Wednesday to revoke DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann’s certification as a law enforcement officer, a move that could lead to his removal from office in the latest fallout from accusations that he exposed himself in Piedmont Park five months ago.
Mann, who was overwhelmingly re-elected in November, will be forced out if the revocation is upheld on appeal. State law requires sheriffs to be certified officers.
No members of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council discussed the case before or after voting on revocation, its harshest penalty. No one on the council mentioned Mann by name, identifying him only by his case number. Records related to the case aren’t made public for 10 days, according to state law.
“We all take this seriously,” said POST Council Chairman Mike Yeager, the sheriff of Coweta County, at the end of the meeting. “When we have one of our own in law enforcement and something happens and it goes wrong, we’ve got to handle our business. I think the people of the state expect us to handle our business.”
Mann wasn’t informed the case would be considered by POST on Wednesday, and he won’t have a response until he receives notification of the decision, according to a statement from the DeKalb Sheriff’s Office.
Mann 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 identified himself, Mann ran, according to a police report.
He pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction and prohibited conduct July 27, and was sentenced to pay fines of $2,000 and serve 80 hours of community service. He was also banished from city of Atlanta parks for six months.
In another recent case, the council placed Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hills’ certification on probation for two years after he accidentally shot a friend in a Gwinnett County model home where she worked. Unlike the pending revocation of Mann’s certification, Hill’s probation doesn’t affect his elected position.
Former DeKalb Sheriff Thomas Brown said he’s “shocked” that POST would revoke Mann’s certification for city ordinance violations, the same level offense as a traffic ticket. Mann already served a 40-day suspension from office ordered by Gov. Nathan Deal.
“There are many law enforcement officers still patrolling the roads today who have done far worse than a violation of a city ordinance, yet they’re still out there,” Brown said. “This is something that, clearly at this point, where we are today, should have been left in the hands of the voters of DeKalb County.”
But Ted Golden, who ran against Mann in the Democratic primary last year, said DeKalb residents deserve a sheriff untainted by wrongdoing.
“The decision to run from the police officer is probably the most critical part,” said Golden, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent. “In law enforcement, there are things that we just don’t do. When you break those rules, there are consequences.”
Mann has never explained or attempted to justify what happened the night of his arrest. During a press conference a week afterward, Mann stood silently beside his attorney who read a statement apologizing for “the unfavorable light my arrest has brought on this county.”
Mann also suspended himself for a week for violating his office’s code of conduct, writing in a memo to staff he needed to take responsibility for bringing criticism to the DeKalb Sheriff’s Office and the county.
Former DeKalb District Attorney Robert James, who is now a defense attorney, questioned why Mann’s certification is being revoked when other officers who break the law receive lesser punishments.
“Even running from an officer, I don’t know if that’s necessarily more serious than shooting someone,” James said. “I’m not defending Sheriff Mann at all. I think the conduct was reprehensible and embarrassing. But as a lawyer who has given his life to the system, I’d like to make sure people are treated similarly.”
Mann has 30 days to appeal the POST Council’s decision. The revocation of his certification doesn’t take effect until the appeal process is over.
If he is removed from office, a special election would be held.