Pubdate: Wed, 10 Aug 2005
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Copyright: 2005 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Author: Glenn Smith


Police won't give details on former lieutenant's actions

Charleston Police Department demoted a veteran narcotics unit supervisor
Tuesday after an internal affairs investigation found he had violated the
department's rules and procedures, authorities said.

James Mackey was reduced in rank from lieutenant to private, a stinging,
precipitous drop that all but erases the gains he made during an 18-year
rise through the department.

Though police officials say the action closes the case, state investigators
have been asked to open a separate probe into Mackey's conduct.

Police officials announced the demotion late Tuesday in a terse statement
that avoided specifics about the allegations, saying only that Mackey made
decisions that "were contrary to the rules and regulations of the Charleston
Police Department." They would not cite what regulations were violated,
saying the matter is a personnel issue.

"We issued a statement, and that is going to be it," said Charles Francis, a
police spokesman.

Lt. Col. Ned Hethington, the city's acting police chief, said investigators
found nothing that would rise to the level of a criminal violation and that
the department considers the matter closed.

"This is a pretty serious penalty for a pretty serious matter," he said.

But 9th Circuit Solicitor Ralph Hoisington said he has asked the State Law
Enforcement Division to investigate. He also declined to discuss specifics,
saying only that "certain issues" had been brought to his attention.

"Any time you have serious allegations about the legality of a law
enforcement officer's actions, they should be explored," he said.

The state attorney general's office also is involved in the case and will
assist Hoisington in any decision regarding prosecution of criminal charges,
said Trey Walker, a spokesman for the agency. Walker said the possibility
exists that the case might be referred to a statewide grand jury for

Reached late Tuesday, Mackey said he wanted to speak with his attorney
before commenting on the matter.Mackey was placed in charge of the narcotics
unit about a year ago, Hethington said. He was pulled from that assignment
about a month ago and placed in an administrative position while the
internal probe continued, he said.

Mackey was known as an aggressive leader who often drew attention for
high-profile drug busts and sweeps to eliminate narcotics from

DrugBust.jpg FILE/WADE SPEES/STAFF James Mackey of the Charleston Police was
demoted to private

In November, he helped lead about 40 Charleston police officers through
three public housing complexes in an effort to clear out drug dealers and
other troublemakers, the first operation of its kind in about a decade.

The same month, he led a massive sweep through downtown Charleston, West
Ashley and James Island, as police sought out 29 suspected drug dealers and
raided four houses.

By day's end, the operation had netted a large amount of cocaine, a handgun
and $43,000 in cash suspected to have been used in drug deals, police said.

Charleston City Councilman Wendell Gilliard questioned the decision to
demote Mackey. He said he and neighborhood leaders are concerned that
removing the officer from the narcotics squad will hamper efforts to clamp
down on the drug trade.

"You cannot have a better person to come into this position," he said. "He's
a trailblazer ... and we've never seen anything but results from this

Hethington said the internal probe was launched in the past 60 days after
police officers brought concerns about Mackey's actions to the department's

The investigation resulted in an officer review board composed of six police
command officials who met Friday and Monday to consider the case. The board
then made recommendations for possible punishment to Police Chief Reuben
Greenberg, who accepted the panel's findings Monday and demoted Mackey,
police said.

No evidence indicates that problems extended to the narcotics unit as a
whole, Hethington said.

"The unit is good, it's fine," he said. "They do a great job."
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