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Veteran police investigator back on the job following suspension

A veteran investigator with the Thomson Police Department is back on the job following a five-day suspension without pay.

The disciplinary action taken against Investigator Lt. Scott Whittle by his superiors last Friday stemmed from an internal probe by city officials over the improper use of his city-issued Taser.

Lt. Whittle worked as a private security officer at an event on Nov. 1 near Thomson in which he was asked by a college student, Kyle Wester, to shoot him with the Taser weapon. Lt. Whittle, who was sitting on a four-wheel recreation vehicle at the time, complied with the student's request.

Mr. Wester fell to the ground in laughter after the incident, which was videotaped and posted on the Internet site, Facebook. Other young people around him also burst out with laughter.

Lt. Whittle, who said he didn't wish to comment publicly about the incident, had been suspended with pay two days earlier after Augusta television station, WRDW-TV-12 obtained a copy of the video and aired it during their noon newscast last Wednesday. It has not been learned how the television station actually obtained the video - whether they were sent a copy of it by someone or whether they obtained it by logging into an account of someone who had posted it.

Police Chief John Hathaway said a television reporter telephoned him about the video last Wednesday morning. About noon that same day, he was shown a copy of the video. Chief Hathaway said he later spoke with Lt. Whittle about the incident, which resulted in his being immediately suspended with pay from the police force pending a full internal investigation.

It wasn't until nearly two days later that Lt. Whittle learned what disciplinary action would be taken against him.

The internal probe was spearheaded by City Attorney Jimmy Plunkett.

In addition to Lt. Whittle's suspension, he also was ordered to write a letter of apology to Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry and city council members.

"The City of Thomson, mayor and council, along with Lt. Whittle and police department, express deep regret for the incident, the lack of judgment exhibited and any undue embarrassment suffered by the community and its citizens," according to press release from City Administrator Don Powers.

In the press release sent via e-mail last Friday afternoon, Mr. Powers also said Chief Hathaway will be reviewing the use of security equipment for changes and recommendations to the current policy.

Web posted on Thursday, December 11, 2008

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