Cochran's new police chief, Jim Sanders, says there was a 'clique' of officers who "were allowed to go beyond what they should have been allowed to" before he took office.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a Cochran police officer, Thurman Hathaway was arrested in July of 2009, accused of misusing equipment.
In August of that same year, Morris Ross and Brent Powell, were arrested in Pineview. Charges against them were dropped, including enticing a child for indecent purposes and child molestation.
On August 27th of 2009, the GBI said, Elijah Mullis was arrested in the parking lot of the police department, charged with conspiracy to sell a controlled substance and violating his oath of office.
According to records from the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, Matt Wright and Derek Childs quit the department in September 2009 and surrendered their law enforcement certificates.
In November of 2009 the police chief, Jon Thrower, resigned. He has not been charged with any crime.
Cochran's new mayor and police chief, say the department has moved on from the controversey.
"We don't care who you are. If you break the law, you break the law," Mayor Cliff Avant said.
POST certification records of current officers in the Cochran Police Department reveal one of them, Mike Modena, son of Bibb county sheriff Jerry Modena, has been investigated by POST three times.
The most recent was in May of 2007 when he was with the Butts County Sheriff's office.
The case summary from 5-31-2007:
"A complaint was filed against this officer because he handcuffed one of the females at the location and told her he would not take them off until she called him 'daddy.' The officer told the females at the location how he would drink alcohol on duty when he was employed at other departments and his father who was CEO at a large department would protect him from disciplinary action. The officer continued to make advances toward the females until they finally requested him to leave the property. The females also stated he was at the location for approximately two and a half hours. When a supervisor questioned him about the complaint, he admitted everything, but denied handcuffing the female. The supervisor asked the officer for the video tape of the call and he stated he had erased it. The officer was asked about the incident report and he stated he had not completed one."
POST's Council ordered Mike Modena to serve 24 months on probation, have a public reprimand and attend a course for persons accused of sexual harassment, according to the Case Summary. POST records also show he left the Butts County Sheriff's office five days later and went on to work for police departments in Hawkinsville, Pineview and now Cochran.
Mayor Cliff Avant says the city wasn't aware of the most recent complaint when they hired Mike Modena six months ago, but said he has not had any problems since he's worked in Cochran.
Another Cochran police officer, Joshua Kester, was arrested in 2006 when he was with the Chamblee police department, according to POST documents.
The case summary:
"[Kester] was arrested on 8-25-06 and charged with fleeing, attempting to elude, reckless driving, wearing headphones while driving, and speeding. According to the incident report, a law enforcement officer observed [Kester]...and said he failed to yield to emergency equipment. The report indicates the speed...reached 110 m.p.h. in a 65 m.p.h. zone. [Kester] stopped at a red light and the arrest was made."
The fleeing charge was reduced to a warning and the speeding charge was reduced to 88 miles per hour, according to the case summary. It says Kester pled guilty to speeding and was fined $816 and pled guilty to wearing headphones and fined $84.
"I have known a lot of officers that messed up when they were young," Chief Sanders said. "As they mature and get older, they can be good officers."
Mayor Avant said the officers are held to higher standards than they were before Chief Sanders took office.
However, the city of Cochran doesn't pay to certify new officers, so new hires usually come from other departments, he said.
"It's a difficult position to be in. You need to hire people that already have certification. And that means they've come from somewhere else or they've left somewhere else and they usually leave for a reason," he said.
Mayor Avant and Jim Sanders say they're looking forward for the GBI investigation to wrap-up. Agents have been reviewing the city's financial records and looking into possible misconduct within the police department since August 2009. Special Agent-in-Charge Greg Harvey says, it should be finished soon.
"We've got the respect back and the public trusts us, and I hope we never do anything to lose that trust again," Chief Sanders said.