Defense, who did not testify at the hearing, was demoted last year and reduced to a master patrol officer’s pay after coworkers brought harassment complaints against him.
According to the city’s human resources department, a sergeant’s salary ranges from about $43,000 to nearly $65,000, while that of a master patrol officer, the next pay grade below sergeant, ranges from about $40,000 to almost $61,000.
After the hearing, Defense’s attorney, Frederick S. Jones of McDonough-based law firm Jones & Associates, said their strategy was to counteract statements by prosecution witnesses.
“All things considered, hopefully the testimony will demonstrate that the vast majority of these allegations were unwarranted, without evidence or proof,” Jones said.
The three-member board, composed of John Carmichael, John Davis and George Davis, who are not related, has 15 business days to render a decision after discussing the matter in closed session.
“I’m looking forward to the resolution,” Jones said.
He called six witnesses, including Smyrna Detention Officer Michelle Allen, who read from police department policy.
“Members in their official interaction with other departmental members shall conduct themselves in a polite, military manner,” she said.
Jones said Allen’s statement indicated a discrepancy between the punishment meted out to white and black officers who commit the same offense of disrespecting lower-ranking personnel.
Jones spoke of a white sergeant who committed a similar offense. “Nothing happened to him with the exception he got a letter (of censure),” Jones said. “That was it.”
Defense said after the hearing that another witness, Officer Darryl Whitfield, spoke on his behalf.
“Whitfield corroborated that there was never any harassment, and their stories were embellished, at best,” Defense said.
Whitfield was arrested in November on a domestic violence charge and continues to work for the police department, although he declined to say in what capacity.
City Attorney Scott Cochran presented seven witnesses, whom he said illustrated a pattern of harassment in violation of city policy.
Among them was Smyrna Park Ranger Louella Millsaps, who said a Taser recertification class Defense was teaching included a scenario in which he commanded her to assume a humiliating position.
Millsaps said the alleged incident occurred in 2011, but she came forward last year.
“You don’t want to be labeled a whiner or not able to do your job,” she said. “I thought I was the only one that had had any encounters with Sgt. Defense.”
Cochran said the case he was building upheld the city’s rules and regulations.
“The punishment that was given to Officer Defense was clearly consistent with the city policy. That’s the issue,” he said. “It authorizes punishment up to and including termination.”