Fiveash defends LPD after NAACP pressure

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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On Friday morning, the Troup County NAACP held a press conference on Lafayette Square in LaGrange to address their ongoing concerns with the Troup County School System (TCSS) and the LaGrange Police Department (LPD).

While the majority of the comments were about TCSS and a call for School Superintendent Brian Shumate to resign due to what the organization called low performance by several schools, complaints were also made about a female LPD officer’s actions at a police retreat and the alleged use of steroids by police officers.

On March 30, NAACP President Mike Meredith and Education Chair Shumate called for Gov. Brian Kemp to investigate what they called the implosion of TCSS and LPD.

Meredith said that since the March press conference, several police officers have resigned, allegedly due to anabolic steroids. On May 17, LaGrange Police Chief Garrett Fiveash confirmed that four officers had resigned but said he could not comment on details as it is an ongoing investigation.

“The new police chief appears to have taken the position of holding these officers accountable to the community, which he serves. His job is not complete though. The female officer who is alleged to have paraded around nude at a retreat for the supervisory police officer also be terminated or at a minimum seriously disciplined,” Meredith said.

Fiveash said the incidents at the Banning Mills retreat have been investigated and the officers involved have been disciplined. Neither Dowell or Fiveash identified the officer, though it was clear both were referring to Sgt. Becky Noles, who was one of three officers suspended for violating the police department’s standards of conduct.

Noles was accused of sitting in officers laps, but none of the investigation reports said she was ever naked. Another officer helped her partially disrobe before bed, per documents from the internal investigation.

“Regarding our female officer who attended the retreat, the completed investigation has shown there was no “parading around nude,” Fiveash said.

“The issues which were found have been addressed and discipline carried out.”

“Since that time, that same officer has continued to do a great job for our department in helping to protect our city,” Fiveash said.

“The LaGrange Police Department will continue to hold all its personnel accountable for their actions. We realize that maintaining the public’s trust is paramount to our continued success and that our officer’s actions each day are what the public judges us by.  As such, they are encouraged to be fair but firm, and to enforce the law equitably regardless of who they encounter.”

“Our agency is not imploding; it is flourishing. Our applications are up, our officers have a renewed and reinvigorated work ethic, and their desire to make our great city a safe place to live and raise a family is second to none.  I’ll also add these things were all taking place prior to the recent pay increase. We are proud of the hard work they do, and they are to be commended for it,” Fiveash said.

Fiveash said he has met with Meredith and Dowell personally, and after their last meeting, he left with the understanding of LPD being transparent and working to resolve common issues plaguing our community.

“If their perception has changed, I’ll be glad to meet with them again and address whatever issues they may have,” Fiveash said.

The chief said he would invite Kemp or any agency he deems appropriate to conduct whatever inquiry he sees fit.

“I have a great deal of respect for our governor, and as a retired Georgia Trooper, I know what level of professionalism he expects. I assure you he would find nothing out of order here,” Fiveash said.