It will be Tuesday before Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John releases the findings of an investigation probing reports of police misconduct during a training trip in Vicksburg.
Cpl. Spence Wallingford and officers Wade Beard, Heath Beard and Robert Walker last Tuesday were in Vicksburg for a three-day field sobriety training course sponsored by Sobriety Trained Officers Representing Mississippi, when visitors at the Vicksburg National Military Park reported witnessing officers playing loud music from a Columbus police cruiser and flashing their lights and sirens at passersby.
St. John, who previously would not release the officers” names, Wednesday confirmed the foursome were the officers being investigated in the incident.
A witness also said two of the officers were riding in the trunk of the car, seated with the trunk popped.
The officers returned to Columbus the following Wednesday, on St. John”s orders, and immediately were placed on paid administrative leave. An apology to park officials and to the citizens of Vicksburg was to be issued.
“Our final report will be made Tuesday night (at the Columbus City Council meeting),” said St. John, noting the investigation is progressing as quickly as possible.
“We”re making sure we got all of the bases covered and we”ve got all of the information,” he added, saying, “Nobody”s dragging their feet.”
“Because of the nature of this and because of the impact of what has occurred, this is as quickly as we can have it moving.”
According to St. John, the investigation is threefold: finding out “what actually happened,” determining disciplinary action, and also deciding how the discipline is to be implemented.
“By Tuesday evening, we will definitely have resolve for everybody,” he said.
It is unclear how many of the four CPD officers placed on leave were involved in the incident. Witnesses said one of the four people he saw in the cruiser was female. St. John confirmed the reports.
“Another agency”s officer was involved, and that female involved was that officer”s fiancée,” said St. John. “The female that was involved did not have anything to do with the four of our guys.”
Wallingford, Wade Beard, Heath Beard and Walker remain on administrative leave, pending completion of the investigation.
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