A Brooklet police officer resigned in November after a passionate disagreement with his police chief over an incident involving the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department.
Shawn Rhyan Berry’s resignation came after reprimands from Brooklet Police Chief Doug Meyer for what he called “insubordination and conduct unbecoming of an officer.”
The issue began in September after Meyer complained about Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies “speeding” through Brooklet on the way to an emergency call, where EMT’s requested help with traffic as they responded to a wreck on a blind curve.
Meyer called the sheriff’s office to speak to Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson or Chief Deputy Jared Akins, but the shift sergeant on call when the incident occurred, Sgt. Rey Rodriguez, was directed to call Meyer back. A heated conversation ensued, and afterwards Meyer posted an “open letter” to Bulloch County sheriff’s deputies on Facebook, chastising them for what he said was unnecessary speed within the Brooklet city limits.
Meyer met with Anderson soon afterwards, and the issue has been resolved between the two agencies. However, Berry became upset over the issue at the time, following a Statesboro Herald article about the incident.
It was not long afterward, according to Meyer and some of Berry’s fellow officers, that Berry started a campaign to unseat Meyer and become interim chief himself.
This led to a “letter of warning” from Meyer, in which he said Berry’s actions “undermine my authority and diminish the weight of the office to which I was appointed.”
The letter of warning
Meyer’s letter, a copy of which was provided to the Statesboro Herald through an open records request, stated that “multiple sources” informed Meyer of Berry’s comments and plans.
The letter read: “… It has come to my attention … that you are not pleased with the current Brooklet Police Departmental state of affairs, under my leadership, and that you have been expressing, quite liberally and unashamedly, to co-workers, to townsfolk and to city council members your concerns. Consequently, as a result of your having done so, the rumor is out, and all over town now, that you intend to ‘run me off,’ and then become ‘the next Chief of Police.’”
Meyer continued: “Look up at the letterhead above (on the actual memo to Berry). Whose name do you see? And do take notice that it is not yours. You are not the Brooklet Chief of Police. You are not a mini-Chief, or even a ‘Chief in Waiting.’ Your job, presently, first, and foremost, is as an officer of the Brooklet Police Department; an officer with the additional duties of being a supervisor, to be called upon in my absence for direction, under my authority and understood to be done with my voice, based upon established policies and practices; a position to which I sought your promotion to and so made training available to you in preparation for.”
Meyer’s letter went on to state he was protecting Brooklet and its residents when he broached the issue of alleged speeding by deputies.
Berry told the Statesboro Herald he felt Meyer’s memorandum to him was “very unprofessional – it sounded like a mean letter instead of a letter of warning.”
Berry’s personnel file
Berry, who began his work as Brooklet police officer in 2010, was promoted to corporal in 2014 by former Brooklet police chief Mike Buchan, according to records from Berry’s personnel file, made available from the Brooklet City Hall after a records request from the Herald.
He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2016 by Meyer, who also gave him a glowing evaluation in January with marks of “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations.”
However, there were previous reprimands in Berry’s personnel file; in May 2011, Buchan admonished him via letter of reprimand for allegedly spending too much time at a local convenience store, or at a friend’s home. The letter followed several verbal reprimands, according to records.
Another “letter of counsel” was filed in Jan. 2015, claiming Berry had been seen spending up to three hours at a time at Clyde’s convenience store.
The file also contained statements from other police officers and city employees who said they had conversations with Berry during which he discussed Meyer’s behavior and Berry’s desire to see him leave the department.
The file contained praises as well, including a Dec. 2015 letter of thanks from Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jared Akins regarding the department’s appreciation for Berry helping them capture a burglary suspect.
But following Meyer’s written “letter of warning” to Berry, Meyer issued a memo Oct. 28 to the Brooklet City Council, announcing Berry’s suspension with pay pending a special-called meeting.
Meyer said Berry “refused to submit to internal affairs/administrative investigation,” or “provide a written statement regarding actions, public and private contacts, and statements of insubordinate and mutinous behavior.”
He said Berry’s behaviors, in soliciting support for Meyer’s dismissal and becoming the interim chief, were not only insubordination but “violation of ethical standards, unacceptable on and off duty conduct, solicitation of favorable acts, abandonment of duty assignment, conduct unbecoming and dereliction of duty.”
In records found in Berry’s personnel file, Meyer also made allegations of other improper behavior of a personal nature that he said reflected badly upon the department.
Berry retained Statesboro attorney Gerald Edenfield Nov. 1 regarding the issue, doing so because he protested what he said was a hastily called meeting of Brooklet’s City Council to discuss his employment.
The special-called meeting was held Nov. 1, but Berry did not attend. The only person attending the meeting besides Brooklet City Council members, their city attorney and Meyer was a Statesboro Herald reporter. No action was taken regarding Berry.
Edenfied sent the council members a notice, stating Berry did not receive sufficient notice of the hearing, having been informed only four days prior, and was therefore “deprived of the opportunity to prepare a defense.”
On Nov. 2, Meyer sent council members another memo regarding Berry’s behavior, stating he was in “violation of direct orders” and that Meyer had been told by witnesses of other allegations of personal misconduct by Berry. He said he had ordered Berry to “cease and desist…conduct unbecoming,” but he did not, and he said Berry’s actions were “bringing disrepute to the department.” He also said Berry was seen by witnesses including city council members in October spending “entire shifts” at a friend’s house instead of patrolling.
Berry admitted talking publicly about Meyer’s conduct towards the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and his own opinion that Meyer should not be Brooklet’s police chief.
He said Meyer would not listen to him regarding how to handle the issue with the sheriff’s office, so he spoke to city council members, most of whom “agreed with me until it came out” publicly.
Then, when Meyer posted on Facebook the open letter to deputies, as well as other comments about the deputies allegedly speeding through town unnecessarily, Berry felt Meyer was being disrespectful and unprofessional, he said.
“Brooklet needs the sheriff’s department. Officers depend on deputies as back-ups,” he said. “Bad blood hurts the sheriff’s office, and hurts Brooklet.”
He said he was respectful in speaking with Meyer about the matter, but the chief didn’t show him the same courtesy. He said Meyer was extremely angry.
“I didn’t raise my voice at him. He slammed his hands down on his desk and yelled ‘You’re g—damned suspended!”
Berry said he did not agree to Meyer conducting the internal affairs investigation, since he was involved in the matter. “It is not proper. A third party should have done it.”
Edenfield sent the Brooklet City Council a second letter Nov. 8, announcing Berry’s voluntary resignation, and confirming conversations with Brooklet city attorney Hugh Hunter where they discussed Berry’s resignation, effective Nov. 9, and his subsequent pay through Dec. 6.
The agreement included that the Brooklet City Council would report the resignation to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council as voluntary, so as not to give reason for certification revocation, and that the city would give a “neutral job reference” to any potential employers of Berry’s.
Hunter issued a letter of acceptance regarding Berry’s resignation Nov. 9.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.