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York: We must have public's trust
Officer's guilty plea leads to changes at Boro PD
stan york
Statesboro Police Chief Stan York - photo by Herald File
    Statesboro Police Chief Stan York said the involvement of one of his officers in an auto theft ring was "disappointing" and he has implemented some departmental changes he believes will "discourage" other officers from going astray.
    Statesboro officer John Fitzgerald Jones plead guilty last week in Federal court for his role in a multi-state auto theft and title fraud ring.  Nineteen other suspects also pleaded guilty; one went to trial and was convicted, while one case was dismissed and another suspect received pretrial diversion.
    "We have the people's trust, and you can't even have that perception" that something illegal or immoral is happening, York said.     
    Jones, 43, was employed with the department during his involvement with the ring. He pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to deceive, according to United States Attorney Edmund Booth Jr., with the United States Department of Justice Southern District of Georgia.
    Two others involved were also former Statesboro Police officers but were not employed with the department when arrests were made. John Allen Williams, 37, Marietta, and Allen Michael Tillman, 30, Bluffton., S.C., each plead guilty to conspiracy.
    Jones was one of 23 suspects indicted Dec. 13, 2007. The 56-count indictment was unsealed in January after the suspects were arrested, he said.
    Involvement of an officer in the auto theft ring casts a bad light on the department, York said. He said additional steps and measures are now in place to ensure and discourage any negative or illegal actions by officers and employees.
    "Training and education on policies and procedures, ethical and professional standards that must be adhered to" are some of the checks and balances.
    Paying attention to officers and employees who appear to be "living above their means, spot checking and reviewing credit reports ... peers who say 'this doesn't look right and needs investigation'" are also tools York and others may use to keep on top of things, he said.
    The department could also employ surprise audits, inspections, and "rotation of positions," and he is exploring the legality of voice stress analysis and polygraph testing, York said.
    Law enforcement officers who may be tempted by illegal activity should be dissuaded from such by the knowledge that they will be "prosecuted to the fullest, especially in our line of work," he said.  
    "We are glad to see this long investigation come to fruition through the courts," York said Tuesday. "Those that were guilty have been found guilty and will be sentenced accordingly."
    The officer involved in the auto theft ring "violated our trust and that what we protect most — public trust," he said.
    Sentencing will take place after a pre-sentence investigation and report.  The maximum statutory sentence for charges of trafficking in vehicles with altered VINs  and possession of a counterfeit motor vehicle title with the intent to deceive is 10 years.
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