Good for Franklin County Sheriff Chris Quire for conducting an investigation of one of his deputies. What we all want is to have well-trained, diverse and ethical law enforcement that protects all in our community equally.
Now it is time to determine what we have learned and ask additional questions, such as:
- Would the investigation have been more independent had it been conducted by someone outside of law enforcement?
- Why did Deputy Jeff Farmer attend the Jan. 6 event given that notice was given by then-President Donald Trump that the rally was going to be “wild” and “a war” by others? Since the nature of the Jan. 6th event was well known in advance, why did the sheriff approve of the deputy’s attendance?
- Why did the deputy talk with the media on his way back? Was he getting his explanation out before his involvement was discovered?
- Why did the investigator accept the word of the three people with the deputy about what they did there? Did the investigator have any other source of information about the deputy’s involvement? Since the investigator admitted he did not conduct “any type of background on the individuals,” why did he conclude they were “honest individuals who appeared to be forthright”?
- Does the investigator believe the deputy had an uninhibited First Amendment right to participate in a protest advertised by the president as “wild”? After all, as far back as 1892, then Massachusetts Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said that an officer “may have a constitutional right to talk politics but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.”
- Does the investigator stand by his assertion that there is no evidence of white supremacists waving Confederate flags at the insurrection? Is the investigator now aware after the impeachment hearings and the accompanying videos of the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers that the insurrection was planned and implemented by white supremacists? As William Finnegan said in “Law Enforcement and the Problem of White Supremacy,” New Yorker (Feb. 27, 2021), “white supremacism, in particular, has never been a stranger to the police station or the sheriff’s office in America.”
- Why did the investigator address the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office in his report? This appeared to be nothing other than a deflection from investigating whether the deputy had participated in the insurrection.
- Did the investigator’s uncalled-for opining about a public defender’s boyfriend have anything to do with the purpose of the investigation? Or was that simply the smearing of a public defender? Is the investigator aware that following police shootings of Black men, law enforcement often digs up salacious pieces of information to smear the victim (such as the fact that George Floyd had a felony record prior to his having an officer’s knee on his neck)?
- What qualified this investigator to opine about public defenders and their motivations for writing their letter to the sheriff? Why would this investigator think public defenders are just young and trying to make a name for themselves, rather than accepting that they are public servants defending the Constitution and deserving of no less respect for what they do than the respect demanded by law enforcement for the work they do?
- The investigator stated in his report that “with time (public defenders) may realize criminal defendants often tell self-serving lies.” Since the deputy was being investigated as a potential lawbreaker, does that also apply to the deputy and his colleagues who went to Washington on Jan. 6?
- Can the deputy now be trusted to police our community in a fair and even-handed manner?
In the Finnegan article cited above, it is noted that the FBI has warned that “white-supremacist groups were increasingly infiltrating local law enforcement.” Given the many questions raised by this “investigation,” what steps will the sheriff take to ensure that this is not the case with our officers who are policing the streets of Frankfort and Franklin County?
Ernie Lewis is a retired public defender who has lived in Frankfort since 2005. He can be reached at email@example.com.