Convicted felon found working as reserve police officer in Ringling

Ringling_The Ringling Police Department is the talk of the town again since someone discovered that one of its reserve officers - who promised to serve and protect - is a convicted felon.  At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, residents of Ringling asked some questions - and, directed all of them at Chief Jeremy Wilson.  It isn't the first time he or his department have been under fire.  Last week, it was suggested that the chief and all of his reserve officers be fired.  It didn't happen, but left 7News wondering why the chief's job seems so tough lately.

Ringling citizens had a lot of questions - good questions.  For example, why police there patrol in unmarked cars, why there are so many reserve officers for such a small town, and the biggest question - how was a convicted felon allowed to carry a gun while protecting and serving the people of Ringling.

At the council meeting residents screamed and shouted, and it lasted all night.  The reserve officer's background was made known when he went to help with relief efforts after last week's tornado in Lone Grove.  Someone on the Lone Grove Police force recognized the man as a former felon.

City Council Representative Terrie Blackwell wanted to know how the man - a three-time convicted felon - could be hired to protect their city.  "I don't know what to say, other than the fact that he should have never been on the force to begin with," said Wilson.  The chief wouldn't talk to 7News, but was asked during the meeting how the man's background wasn't caught after they conducted a background check.  "The dispatcher who did the first step never did the second step to actually give the conviction," he said.

As it turned out, the background check was not even administered in Jefferson County, rather it was done in another county altogether.  However, Wilson said there was a reason for that.  "It's on the way home," he said.  "To save the city gas money, instead of driving twenty-something miles."

Citizens at the meeting also wanted to know why an unmarked car - the reserve officer's privately owned vehicle - was patrolling the town of Ringling.  Blackwell oversees the police department and says she asked the same question.  "He was using it for traffic, so we had to have it marked," she said.  "It also has to be owned by the city of Ringling and it wasn't - it was a personal vehicle."  The issue of the unmarked vehicle has been resolved.  The council has stopped the practice.  "We could be sued...most cases are going to get dismissed and thrown out."

Also on the agenda was a motion to have Blackwell replaced.  She was appointed to oversee the police department, and they voted against it.  She says she's just doing her job to ensure operations within the department are legal so the people of Ringling are safe.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.