JENNINGS — Berry Raulerson will remain on the Jennings police force.
During a hearing Dec. 16, the Jennings Town Council voted 3-2 to overturn Raulerson’s termination. Instead the police officer will receive a written reprimand.
“I am very happy to be given the opportunity to stay,” Raulerson said following the hearing. “I love my job, and I love the people that I serve, I truly believe this was all just a misunderstanding and I look forward to continuing my work in the Town of Jennings.”
Raulerson was terminated by Police Chief Vincent Robinson on Dec. 2, which Raulerson appealed to the council at its Dec. 3 meeting. The council granted Raulerson the hearing to determine his status, with Raulerson on unpaid administrative leave until a decision was made.
The termination letter was dated and signed by Robinson on Nov. 27, following Raulerson receiving a written reprimand for insubordination from Robinson, and refusing to sign it, which is allowed in the town’s charter.
The reprimand for insubordination stemmed from a Nov. 23 call involving a female abducted at gunpoint within town limits.
Robinson said he had previously told his officers that if any “major incident” occurred, that they were to call him immediately.
However, due to the severity of the call, Raulerson and fellow Jennings officer John Davis rushed to the scene where the abduction took place.
Pleading his case to the council in the appeal hearing, Raulerson said his attention wasn’t on notifying the chief. Rather he was focused on trying to help the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and Echols County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office find the suspect and victim.
“Everywhere I’ve ever worked, dispatch has notified the Chief of Police when major incidents happen,” Raulerson added.
When questioned by the council, Robinson indicated he still believed the termination was the appropriate.
“I still stand by my decision, if you want to overturn it you are accepting a lot of liability by doing so,” he said.
After Raulerson refused to sign the reprimand from Robinson, the chief instructed him to go home.
Raulerson, though, received permission to remain on duty from Christy Smith, the town clerk and acting town manager. Following a discussion with Town Attorney Tom Stone, Smith instructed the chief that she could decide whether Raulerson could stay on duty.
After hearing the discussions and pleas from both parties, the council voted to give Raulerson a written reprimand, which passed 3-2 with council members Samantha Prueter and Jerry Pittman dissenting.
Pittman had accused Raulerson during the town’s Dec. 3 meeting of not patrolling the town while at work, instead sleeping or playing on his computer near the Interstate 75 interchange.
During the appeal hearing, that accusation was also addressed, with the conclusion that the accusation was hearsay with no actual evidence to show for it, but that it was simply Pittman’s opinion.
The council and Smith will be in charge of writing the reprimand.
Council member Bill Butler, while voting for Raulerson to remain on the police force, cautioned that another incident wouldn’t be viewed as favorably.
“But if it happens again, then see ya,” Butler said, which was agreed by the rest of the council.
Added Council member Charles Barrett: “None of us are perfect, people make mistakes. I feel like we need to do some soul searching of ourselves and step up to the plate.”