A Jenkins City Police officer was reinstated to his job this week after an administrative hearing that lasted more than four hours.
The Jenkins City Council voted to reinstate Officer Scott Ratliff to his position as patrolman on Monday, five months after Ratliff had been suspended without pay. Ratliff ’s attorney, Larry Webster of Pikeville, said after the hearing that he and his client were pleased by the action taken by the council.
Ratliff will have to serve a sixmonth probationary period and will be assigned to ride with Police Chief Adam Swindall for a period of four weeks as well. Ratliff also will receive no back pay for the period during which he was suspended. Webster said the council made its decision in two votes, one to determine to reinstate Ratliff and a second to determine his penalty.
The council’s attorney, Russell Davis, also from Pikeville, introduced two charges against Ratliff as the reason for his dismissal. Davis said on August 29, 2009, Ratliff and Officer Anthony Maggard brandished shotguns at five individuals in front of Family Dollar Store in Jenkins. The individuals in front of the building were longtime Jenkins residents Rebecca Addington, her daughter Kara Stanley, Stanley’s mother-in-law and father-in-law Nancy and Tony Stanley, and C. Randall Tackett, Mrs. Addington’s brother and City Attorney for Jenkins.
Jenkins Mayor Charles Dixon said Maggard was placed on probation for six months and former Chief Jim Stephens was demoted to patrolman as a result of the incident. Dixon said deciding Ratliff ’s fate had been a hard decision for the council and it was one with which he was satisfied.
Rebecca Addington told the council she had received a phone call from her daughter on the evening of August 29 telling her that Kara Stanley’s husband, Brandon Stanley, had been arrested and her car was being towed. Addington said she went to the scene and spoke to Duane Kincer, who was driving the tow truck. Kincer informed her she could get the car by paying the tow fee and she paid it and the car was released. After Kincer left, Addington said Tackett arrived and the five were talking when Maggard yelled at them from the other side of the Double Quick parking lot, saying that if they didn’t leave immediately he would have every state trooper in the county there in five minutes. She said both officers had shotguns but they were pointed at the ground. At- torney Webster added that the officers were at least 150 feet away from Mrs. Addington and her family members and said a shotgun wouldn’t have much effect at that range.
Addington said she and her daughter along with the Stanleys left as soon as Maggard uttered his threat and Randall Tackett approached the officers and identified himself and the situation was defused. Attorney Webster also pointed out that the incident took place during Jenkins Homecoming Days Festival when there were large crowds in town.
The second charge against Ratliff also involved brandishing a shotgun and pointing it at an unarmed suspect. Attorney Davis said on October 24, 2009, Ratliff answered an assistance call from then-Letcher County Deputy Sheriff Tim Miller of McRoberts. Miller is now a patrolman with the Fleming Neon Police Department. During the October incident, Davis said Ratliff pointed his shotgun at Ricky Pigman, who had been hiding in the woods following an incident at the home of Ellis Blevins on Sharpe’s Branch involving a juvenile being struck in the face by an adult.
Pigman said he had left the Blevins residence because he had been told “the law” was coming, although he had not been involved in the altercation. He said he drove his car to Haymond Hill, which is adjacent to Sharpe’s Branch, and parked it at a cemetery and went into the woods. Pigman said when he came out, Ratliff pointed his shotgun at him and told him to put his hands up. He said he complied and Ratliff then lowered his shotgun and threatened him with a Taser device.
Attorney Webster asked if Ratliff lowered the shotgun when he saw that Pigman had put his hands up and Pigman said no. In reply to another question from Webster, Pigman said he was wearing baggy jeans and a heavy Carhartt jacket, but was not moving from tree to tree when he came out of the woods.
Miller also testified and said he had received the call to go to Sharpe’s Branch in the afternoon and arrived about 4:30 p.m. He said both he and Ratliff had originally gone up the Haymond Hill road and had to back up to go to Sharpe’s Branch. He said when they arrived, they met the juvenile who had been struck and his mother, who said he had been hit by Ellis Blevins. Miller said the juvenile had a black eye and when he was asked about Pigman’s car, which he and Ratliff had seen parked on Haymond Hill, he said it had been at the Ellis residence.
Miller said he and Ratliff proceeded to Pigman’s car hoping to find Blevins. He said he initially drew his service weapon and Ratliff had the shotgun. However, Miller said when he saw that Pigman was compliant, he holstered his weapon. When asked if he thought Ratliff ’s use of the shotgun was appropriate, Miller said he believes that showing a weapon should be left to the officer’s discretion in regard to a particular incident, but when Davis persisted, Miller added he had seen no reason to draw his weapon again after it was holstered.
In response to another question from Davis, Miller said he did not believe Ratliff felt threatened by Pigman and he did not believe it had been necessary for Ratliff to point the shotgun at him. He said when then- Chief Stevens interviewed him about the incident, he had told him that he believed Ratliff had acted more aggressively than was necessary.
Attorney Webster pointed out that Ratliff obviously had the situation under control and in reality, there had been no reason for Miller to draw his weapon anyway. He added that as soon as Pigman was completely out of the woods, Ratliff did in fact lower the shotgun and Miller handcuff ed him. Miller said he handcuffed Pigman for his and Ratliff ’s safety and Pigman was arrested for driving without a license. In response to another question from Webster, Miller said that neither officer located Ellis Blevins.
Retired State Police Colonel Tim Hazelett also testified. Hazelett said he had been asked by Mayor Dixon to investigate the incident in the Family Dollar parking lot and he had found Maggard and Ratliff didn’t have a good reason to show their shotguns on the night in question. In response to a question from Davis, Hazelett said if he had been faced with the same incident during his active duty days, he would have simply walked over to the Addington crowd and tried to help them resolve the situation.
“I would have asked them to leave if I had wanted them to leave,” said Hazelett.
Hazelett told the council that in his 20-year career with the Kentucky State Police, he had served as captain at both the Hazard and Frankfort State Police Posts and commander of the State Police Academy in Frankfort from 1994 to 1996. He said it was State Police Academy policy to train officers to use deadly force or to draw their weapon only if they felt they were in a life-threatening situation or if a civilian was in a similar situation. When asked about the Family Dollar incident, Hazelett said he didn’t understand how it had gone the way it did.
“I could never understand what led them to that point,” said Hazelett. “Nothing was revealed (in the investigation) to show me why that was necessary.”
Hazelett said such action could exacerbate the situation and put the officer in a bad place.
“I have known of times when an officer pulled his weapon on an unarmed suspect and the suspect said ‘go ahead and shoot me’,” said Hazelett. “Then he had to put it back in his holster.”