Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Officers reprimanded for failing to make arrests

Two officers with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department received letters of reprimand last Friday after Sheriff Kent Harris indicated they did not handle a case involving the seizure of marijuana properly.
Last Tuesday, the officers – Sgt. Frank Rogers and Maj. Mike Hensley – initiated an investigation in the Coffee Ridge community, where they suspected 24-year-old Jerry D. Duncan and 50-year-old Jerry D. Honeycutt were in possession of marijuana plants.
According to police reports, investigators saw a post to Duncan’s Facebook page of a picture of live marijuana plants.
When Rogers and Hensley, along with K-9 Officer Nick Hughes, went to the residence, Duncan and Honeycutt reportedly told them where the marijuana plants were.
Duncan and Honeycutt, both of 239 Viss Honeycutt Rd., were issued citations for conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance, which Harris indicated is a Class C felony, and warrants arrest under UCSD policy.
But neither of the men were actually arrested last Tuesday night. “They were just written a citation, just like you’d be writing a citation for seat-belt or speeding (violations),” Harris said.
“The only time you can write a citation for a felony is if the (subject) is incapacitated in some way, like if they’re in the hospital,” Harris added. “Neither of these men met that criteria.”
It is for this reason that Harris said Hensley and Rogers violated the UCSD’s zero-tolerance policy against illegal drugs in the county.
“This letter is to reprimand your actions during a recent narcotic investigation,” Harris’ letter read. “After obtaining a confession from the two defendants admitting to the manufacture of 21 marijuana plants, you … issued a citation instead of an arrest warrant on both individuals.
“It is not the policy of the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department to issue citations on felony drug cases.”
Harris said the both subjects found to be in possession of marijuana plants have a history of arrests with the department. Duncan has been arrested four times by the department, while Honeycutt has been arrested and booked into the jail more than 20 times.
In his letters to Rogers and Hensley, Harris indicated the officers’ failure to arrest Duncan and Honeycutt was “unacceptable” and said the handling of the case “sends a message to violators and to the public that is contrary to the … policy of this department.”
Harris added that the department has made many arrests over the years for people growing marijuana, and all of those subjects were put in jail. He said Rogers reported thinking the violation was only a misdemeanor.
“It’s just unacceptable, the way this was handled,” Harris said. “As long as they’ve worked at the department, they should have called someone if they weren’t sure.”
Duncan and Honeycutt are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 19.
Harris concluded by stating that both Rogers and Hensley have “done a good job for me” and indicated that no further administrative action will be taken against the officers.