Detention officer suspected of sexual contact with inmate

Clemmons: ‘If I let somebody go, it’s pretty bad’

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — A detention officer at Richmond County Jail has been fired after Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. found that the officer violated department policies and procedures regarding potential sexual contact with a female in custody.

Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr.

Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr.

The firing came on April 28, one day after a woman confined at the jail in downtown Rockingham made a complaint that William Arthur “Ottie” Cline III, 46, had had inappropriate contact with the prisoner.

Clemmons said the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office has forwarded the investigation to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. To date, no charges have been filed against Cline. Cline had been on the job since Aug. 13, 2012 at a salary of $25,697.

“We conducted the investigation like we do anything else,” Clemons said of receiving a complaint and making an initial inquiry.

“The complaint itself is kind of hard to determine the validity of the complaint,” Clemmons said. “However, things appeared in that investigation that were disturbing to me. Based upon that, it was an immediate release of duty. If I let somebody go, it’s pretty bad.”

Still, Clemmons cautioned against a rush to judgment.

“Allegations are what they are,” he said. “They don’t make it a matter of fact. That’s the purpose of the investigation.”

Clemmons said the top priority is to protect the safety and welfare of the officers that oversee those confined at Richmond County Jail. He said that in this case, officers’ safety wasn’t jeopardized but there was “great potential” for exactly that.

“Any breach in security is a potential for catastrophe,” Clemmons said during a half-hour long news conference in his office inside Richmond County Courthouse with Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge.

It’s not good news, Clemmons said, but it’s just as important for the public to learn of situations like this. He said it’s important for a separate entity with no ties to the sheriff’s office, such as the SBI, “make sure the integrity has been kept in the investigation.”

“We as sheriffs have a duty to that public trust,” Clemmons said. “Even when we make mistakes, we go to the proper authorities. We’re all human (and) make bad judgment calls.”

Clemmons began his law enforcement career with the N.C. Department of Corrections and came to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in 1989. Since arriving in Richmond County, “I’ve never had this happen before, never heard this happening before, at least not to my knowledge,” he said. “But I have seen this type of thing happen throughout my career … and it still happens today.”

 

Filed in: Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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