3 MPD officers arrested in 4 weeks
By Jennifer Horton, Reporter
Three Montgomery Police Officers have been charged in the past four weeks with crimes ranging from murder to leaving the scene of an accident. Two of those arrests have occurred in the last three days.
Two of the officers were on duty at the time of the reported incidents, and all are in their early 20s.
Prosecuting three MPD officers at the same time was unheard of until now.
To put it in perspective, District Attorney Daryl Bailey has prosecuted upwards of six police officers in his career prior to the three arrests.
“We are treating these cases very seriously,” Bailey said. “The city [of Montgomery], we give them much credit for coming forward. They are not trying to cover up or hide anything.”
Bailey requested the judge set the latest MPD officer’s bail at $30,000 cash due to the seriousness of the offense, and it was granted.
Officer Morris Leon Williams remained behind bars Wednesday night on a second degree sodomy charge. MPD Chief Ernest Finley confirms Williams was accused of a sex crime involving a mentally challenged victim while responding to a call on Monday.
“When we come across the officer who has crossed that line, that is corruption; that is a violation of public trust,” Finley said.
Officer G.T. Farris resigned following his arrest on Tuesday for allegedly leaving the scene of an accident. SBI investigated the accident, and charged Farris with felony leaving the scene of an accident.
Finley confirmed the state investigator drew blood to confirm anything in his system. Farris was off duty at the time of the offense. Finley indicated the accident and injury sustained in the crash are serious.
“It’s a tough week for the family at MPD,” Finley explained. “I’m going to be up front with you about that.”
The arrests are changing the way MPD conducts business. Finley firmly believes bad decision making, not age is to blame for the recent offenses.
“Officers have historically and traditionally been young,” Finley said. “You can be a cop at 19, and these guys have been on the force for two to three, even four years.”
Despite that belief, he has implemented more field training.
Currently, 18 officers are undergoing a course now with another to be offered in June. There's no word why the officers were selected for this additional course.
The largest wholesale change comes in the form of two-person patrols for second and third shifts, an issue that reached a fever pitch following the arrest of Officer Aaron Smith, recentlycharged with murder for the shooting death of an unarmed man.
Smith was patrolling alone in a high-crime area when the incident unfolded. Finley said it’s an issue he heard loud and clear from the officers and the community following the death of Greg Gunn.
“The second and third shift, we have a minimum of six two-man patrols in those high-crime areas,” Finley explained.
The dual patrol could increase to as many as 12 teams, but Finley could not confirm how many officers were left to patrol alone.
Finley is using his senior staff members as eyes and ears for the force, by appearing in roll call and meetings. Their job is to talk to the officers about sensitive issues, identify any concerns involving their personalities or red flags and monitor those issues.
As MPD works past a damaging month, Finley maintains he has a zero tolerance policy for officers who break the law and live unsavory personal lives.
“That’s intolerable, [and] we are not going to put up with that,” Finley said.
Despite the mounting evidence against MPD officers, Bailey says he has a deep respect for the profession and the officers who are protecting Montgomery.
“They are the thin blue line between order and chaos every single day,” Bailey said. “Those who have done wrong, we need to demand better. We have to make sure the officers are receiving training, and they are the very best officers to protect our community.”