June 6, 2018 10:37:50 AM
A patrolman with Columbus Police Department has been suspended for 28 days without pay for the second time in a year.
On Tuesday morning during a special call meeting of the Columbus City Council, councilmen voted unanimously to suspend Officer Jared Booth for 28 working days for conduct unbecoming of a police officer and put him on six-month probation.
According to a city source with knowledge of the situation, Booth made a sexual gesture to an employee in a retail store in October. The employee was an acquaintance of Booth and a spouse of another CPD officer, the source said.
In June 2017, Booth was suspended for 28 days without pay for violating the social media policy for Facebook three posts, one of which is sexually explicit, one of which uses a racial slur and one of which implies a former police officer is gay.
CPD Chief Fred Shelton recommended Booth receive a 35-day suspension on Tuesday. Columbus attorney Mark Jackson, who is representing Booth, said he thinks even the 28-day suspension is too strong a penalty.
"We weren't arguing the facts of the incident," Jackson said. "Jared knows what he did was wrong and expected some consequences. Our argument was the inconsistency in the way these disciplinary measures are imposed. We didn't think the facts of the case merited the punishment being recommended. We were able to get it reduced a little bit, but right now, I think Jared is going to take a couple of days to think it through, so I can't say if there will be an appeal."
He argued other police officers had received lighter punishments for worse offenses, though he did not name specific incidents or officers.
Booth is currently on administrative leave from CPD for the shooting death of 24-year-old Raymond Davis on Nov. 4, 2017, outside the Premier Lounge on 22nd Street South. According to city officials, body camera footage of the shooting shows Davis holding a gun when Booth shot him.
Jackson said Booth's administrative leave made it unclear when his suspension will begin.
"There is some confusion about when the suspension would start," he said. "Normally, it starts immediately, but that's not always the case. Then there is the situation where (Booth) is on administrative leave at the current time. I'm hoping to talk to Jeff (Turnage, city attorney) in the next day or two to get some clarification on that."
Another police officer was recommended for a separate disciplinary action, but the council voted unanimously not to take any action.
During the executive session, Starkville attorney and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins represented the city of Columbus. Turnage told The Dispatch after the meeting that it was to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest because one of the police officers in question may be involved in a future legal issue where Turnage will have to represent the city. Turnage did not name either officer or indicate which of them may be involved in future litigation.
At the council's regular meeting Tuesday night, councilmen also voted unanimously to declare the Lee Middle School property a Brownfield site, which would allow a developer of the site to take advantage of the redevelopment tax rebates offered by the state.
An anonymous development group currently owns an option on the Lee Middle property, which is being marketed by the Columbus Redevelopment Authority.
The CRA recently released an outline of the development group's plans for the site, which include demolishing the north wing of the school building on the property and turning the remaining structures into mixed-use residential and commercial property. The council also approved those plans at Tuesday's meeting.
The development group has not officially closed the sale, however, and has until June 30 to do so.
Turnage said the tax rebates developers would receive from cleaning up a Brownfield site would be just another incentive for the development group to complete the sale of the property.
"We're optimistic there may be an exercise in the option before you all meet again (on June 19)," Turnage said.
The council also approved the hiring of an entry-level firefighter for Columbus Fire and Rescue, along with two full-time CPD officers, a CPD reserve officer and a CPD traffic controller.
Slim Smith contributed to this report.
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