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PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal by clicking here. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
 
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Photo from pullover video obtained through open records to the City of Molena.
 
BREAKING NEWS: Pike County Times Investigates Hemphill Pullover Video and Police Radio Band Allegations
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - On Friday, October 7, 2022, an Atlanta news station broke the news that Zebulon Police Chief Jonathan Hemphill had been pulled over by Molena police officers on August 25, 2022 and acted for being disrespectful to the officers involved in the pullover.

The body camera footage is posted at www.11alive.com The unedited body camera footage is available under the article.

In the video, Chief Hemphill stopped in the middle of the road and gets out of his car to confront the officers even before they got out of their patrol car after turning on their lights to make the stop. When advised that he was pulled over for window tint and having a ghost tag (which basically means that it isn’t registered like a regular car tag and can be used in law enforcement for a variety of reasons), he got angry and accused them of pulling him over because he flashed his blue lights at the officers to tell them hello.

He then told these officers that he was the police chief in Zebulon, that the police chief in Molena used to work for him, and told them that he was calling their chief. The footage is about 5 minutes long and ended without Chief Hemphill receiving a ticket.

In the story that was posted online, the Atlanta news station also stated that Chief Hemphill blocked the Molena Police Department from using its radio frequency for their emergency radio traffic forcing the city to work with the Pike County Sheriff’s Office to allow Molena PD to use that radio channel in order to provide safety for Molena’s police officers and its citizens.

Pike County Times contacted the City of Zebulon and Chief Hemphill but was advised that they had no comment on this matter.

Pike County Sheriff’s Office Answers Questions – October 11, 2022

Pike County Times contacted the Pike County Sheriff’s Office to confirm that Molena Police Department is on the Sheriff Office radio band. Major David Neal advised that this is correct and that the Sheriff’s Office has several repeaters around the county which makes this possible.

He also answered Pike County Times’ questions about how the system works for officers in the field as well as Dispatch at the 911 Center at the Sheriff’s Office in Zebulon. Molena Police Officers would need a radio frequency to talk car to car between officers, and the same would go for 911 dispatching officers to an emergency in their area.

Pike County Times confirmed that any call needing to be dispatched to an officer in the field throughout the county would go through the 911 Center over the radio system.

Open Records from the City of Zebulon - October 11, 2022

Pike County Times then emailed City of Zebulon Administrator Larry Mitcham and City Attorney Rob Morton to ask for open records including 1) a copy of the intergovernmental agreement between Zebulon and Molena, 2) a copy of any written communication including emails referencing the discontinuation of the radio frequency/band use by Molena Police Department, and 3) a copy of any disciplinary actions from Chief Hemphill's file.

Pike County Times also said that it would be helpful to ascertain about how many years that Molena has been on Zebulon's radio frequency/band and gave the City an opportunity to submit a statement regarding the Hemphill traffic stop and/or the discontinuation of the use of the radio frequency/band.

The following email was received from City Attorney Rob Morton and is included verbatim as well as a copy of the written agreement between Zebulon Police Department and Molena Police Department that reads as follows:

“May 8, 2022
Chief Jonathan Hemphill
Chief Matt Polk

Ref: Digital Radio Agreement

This is a written agreement between Zebulon Police Department and Molena Police Department in reference to sharing our digital radio band with Molena Police Department. I have agreed with Chief Matt Polk to share the Zebulon Police band as long as Chief Polk remains the Chief of Police in Molena Ga. This agreement will be void if and when Chief Polk decides to no longer work for the City of Molena Police Department.”

Pike County Times received an unexecuted copy of the agreement with a signature line for Chief Hemphill and Chief Polk.

The email was shared/cc’ed to City Administrator Larry Mitcham, City Mayor Joe Walter, and Chief Jonathan Hemphill. It read as follows: “This email is in response to your Open Records Request sent via email. Please be advised that the incident involving Chief Hemphill and the Molena PD is under consideration and the City of Zebulon has no formal comment at this time.

Please be further advised that the City of Zebulon denies the unsupported assertions of the media (Channel 11 or anyone else) regarding "retaliation" by the Chief concerning Molena's use of Zebulon's digital radio band.

Please find attached an unexecuted copy of the Agreement between Chief Hemphill and Chief Polk regarding the sharing of Zebulon's digital radio band. I understand that the respective Chiefs executed the Agreement, but I do not presently have a copy of the executed Agreement.

Please be further advised that there are no such public documents responsive to enumerated request 2 in your email. Specifically, neither the City nor Chief Hemphill discontinued Molena's use of Zebulon's digital radio band, which is the reason there are no public records in the possession of the City of Zebulon in connection to enumerated request 2.

Regarding your enumerated request 3 in your email, I am not aware of any disciplinary actions concerning Chief Hemphill. Rather, I am only aware of the Chief's exemplary service to the City of Zebulon. I will further investigate this request 3 and will supplement this response if anything further is discovered that is responsive to your request.

As indicated above, the City is taking the matter involving the Molena PD under consideration and has no formal statement at this time, except to deny that the City of Zebulon, nor Chief Hemphill, discontinued Molena's use of Zebulon's digital radio band.

Thanks.
Yours truly,
Robert L. Morton”

Email Interview with Chief Polk of Molena - October 11, 2022

1) Was Chief Hemphill given a ticket for the traffic stop on August 25?
ANSWER: Chief Hemphill was not issued a traffic citation.

2) How long have the officers involved in the traffic stop been in law enforcement?
ANSWER: One of the officers has 7 years’ experience, the other has 8 years.

3) How did radio traffic work prior to the change to Pike County? (I need this so that the average citizen can understand how this works.)
ANSWER: Prior to September 30, 2022, the Molena Police Department operated on the Zebulon Police Department’s radio channel.

4) Does the City of Molena have a repeater?
ANSWER: The Molena Police Department does not have its own repeater / radio channel.

5) Is/was there a written mutual aid agreement between the City of Molena and the City of Zebulon with regard to use of the radio channel?
ANSWER: There is/ was a written agreement for the use of the Zebulon Repeater.

6) What is the reason for the change from the City of Zebulon to Pike County Sheriff’s Office and when did this occur?
ANSWER: The Molena Police Department swapped from the Zebulon Repeater to Pike County after I was advised on September 30, 2022 that I needed to find another radio channel by Chief Hemphill after he was told no disciplinary action would be taken against my officers regarding the traffic stop because after reviewing the video, it was determined they did nothing wrong.

7) How long as the City of Molena been with the City of Zebulon with this radio frequency?
ANSWER: I do not have an exact timeframe that The Molena Police Department has been using the Zebulon repeater, but it has been several years.

8) Would you like to make a statement about how your officers responded in this incident?
ANSWER: I would like to commend my officers on their integrity and professionalism as well as their continued attempts to deescalate the situation.

City of Zebulon Council Meeting – October 11, 2022

The Mayor and City Council met last night. There was law enforcement presence at the meeting, and mayor issued a statement before the public comment section of the meeting. He warned those who wanted to speak on the Chief Hemphill matter saying, “If you wish come up and make a comment, you have that right.”

Those speaking had three minutes to make their point. “We will maintain civility and be kind. We will not use foul language… Hopefully we can remain civil.” He also advised that there was an officer in the back to escort people out of the meeting if needed.

Michael Wright from Concord thanked the City Council and Mayor for allowing him to speak. He said that he worked for the Sheriff’s Office for over 15 years and worked with three police chiefs in Zebulon. “The one you have now is outstanding.” He said that the Council is not going to find a better chief or department in the state of Georgia and said that he is bothered that there is a discussion about Hemphill losing his job.

“He has violated no laws and yet he is standing to lose his job,” he said. “There has been no investigation going on but because 11Alive decided to say look how mad he was.”

Wright went on to describe Hemphill as a man of service, the type of man who brings milk to your house if you have Covid, and the type of man who gets things done when asked. He said that Hemphill is not a perfect man but told Council that they have never had a chief as good as him and never will. He urged Council members to ask his employees who work for him.

He then discussed the video by saying that Hemphill has violated no laws and said that he was pulled over for no reason. He said that two reasons that people can be pulled over are probable cause (like a busted tail light) and articulate reasonable suspicion (ARS) which he described as me speaking to you about what is right or wrong. Time ran out, and they gave him 30 more seconds to finish up. He finished by saying that there was no probable cause for the stop. He said that Hemphill was elevated when he got pulled over by law enforcement like everyone is. It happens. He violated no laws. His 4th amendment rights were violated. Then he was lied upon. If he was trying to take someone off the radio, who did he come to and ask about taking them off of the radio? He ran out of time again and stepped down from the podium.

Shannon Moulton from Zebulon said that he frequents the city of Zebulon and has worked for the Sheriff’s Office. He asked the City Council to please--before making a decision based on a video on 11 Alive News--think about the officers in Atlanta that defended themselves from armed robbery, robbery by sudden snatching, aggravated assault, and felony obstruction from the young man at the Wendy’s. You see a small section of clip there. They were arrested, charged, and charges dismissed because there was no merit. Throughout this country so many times, officers and civilians go through troubling times that you see in a clip for 10 seconds.

He gave an example of an officer involved shooting with a man being shot who was going for his gun. One officer is standing in front of the suspect with his gun drawn as the suspect has his hands out, but what you can’t see from that one video clip is another officer who sees the suspect reaching for his gun who shot the suspect. “Before you make a decision on this, I ask that you slow down and look at the totality of everything to make the correct decision on Chief Hemphill because no laws have been violated.”

No one else wished to speak in the public comment period within the City of Zebulon. The mayor thanked everyone for their comments and civility. He said that there are some truly terrible people out there who have the power of the keyboard and have said some pretty hateful things about staff, about elected officials, about the police department.

We had to shut down the FB page which is supposed to be about providing information for citizens and stop the email account because of the hatred coming from people who probably couldn’t find us on a map if they wanted to, he said. We’ve heard your comments and will be discussing this matter and others in the executive session.

At the end of the meeting, Council was in Executive Session for a little over an hour. When the meeting was reconvened, Attorney Rob Morton read a statement on behalf of the city council that read as follows: “The city has received information and allegations concerning Chief Jonathan Hemphill. The city will be seeking a third party independent entity to investigate the information and allegations and provide the city with specific findings and/or recommendations.”

Closing

The City of Zebulon issued a press release today which read as follows: “The City of Zebulon has received information and allegations concerning Chief Jonathan Hemphill. The City will be seeking a third party, independent entity to investigate the information and allegations and to provide the City with specific findings and/or recommendations."

Pike County Times will continue to follow up on this article as new information becomes available.


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10.12.22
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