Discipline record cited for lack of promotions
Charleston police officer and mayoral candidate Omar Brown has said he's still a private after 12 years on the force because he's arrested the children of higher-ranking officers. But his personnel file reveals other reasons.
Police Chief Greg Mullen said Wednesday that while Brown's record shows some positive performance reviews and letters of commendation from citizens, his disciplinary history made him ineligible for promotion for most of his time in Charleston.
"Many of the times when he could have been tested for promotion, he would not have been eligible because under the old policy, you could not be promoted if you were subject to disciplinary action within a year," Mullen said. "That's what kept him out of contention in many of those cases."
Brown, 39, has been suspended without pay five times during his dozen years on the force, for infractions ranging from failing to report damage to a patrol car to insubordination.
His most recent review said his work "exceeds requirements" but gave him low marks for cooperation and work habits.
"When you look at the performance record I have, I think it speaks to the caliber of officer I am," Brown told a reporter Oct. 9.
Brown was unwilling to discuss his personnel record Wednesday morning after a mayoral debate.
"I'm going to leave it right where it is," he said. "I'm not going to get into tabloid journalism."
In a written response to his latest departmental performance review in July, he had complained of discrimination "against those not in the club."
"This evaluation report reflects my feeling that little has changed in the areas of truth and fairness," Brown wrote in the employee comment section of his report. "The process of discrimination against those not in the club/click continues to plague the Charleston Police Department.
"Relentless efforts are made to make (unintelligible) officers look bad on paper, despite factual data, as those in leadership positions continue to feel threatened by one's daily performance," he wrote.
Brown entered the race for mayor a month later. In 2005, he had applied to be chief of police after Reuben Greenberg's retirement.
Mullen said Brown's last disciplinary problems, two counts of insubordination and one for failing to report for duty in 2004, were "pretty serious stuff" that resulted in a 10-day unpaid suspension for Brown. Brown also was suspended in 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2002.
"Everybody's going to make a mistake from time to time, but not consistently like this," Mullen said.
The Post and Courier sought access to Brown's personnel file through the state Freedom of Information Act after he was involved in an off-duty shootout in the parking lot of a North Charleston convenience store Oct. 1. Brown, who was wounded in the shootout, was later ruled to have acted appropriately in firing repeatedly at his alleged assailant.
The newspaper renewed its effort to obtain Brown's records after he said at an Oct. 8 debate that his lack of promotion was because he had arrested the children of other officers. The city initially refused to provide the file, but then said the file would be provided because Brown dropped his objection.
At the Oct. 8 debate, Brown had been asked by an audience member why he thought he could be a leader when, after a dozen years on the Charleston police force, he's still a private. Brown gave this reply:
"When a lieutenant's son sells drugs, I have arrested him. When a captain's son breaks into someone's house, I'll put you in jail, and I have done that," he said. "Therefore, down the line, you cannot get promoted because you're willing, as a leader, to make a difference in the lives of those who have been victimized, and that's the kind of leader I am."
Brown has refused to elaborate on his claims about his lack of promotion, or explain subsequent comments to a reporter about the police department having "a culture of corruption."
"I intend to investigate, and if there is anything to his statements we will address that," Mullen said. "I don't want the community to think we have a culture of corruption, because we don't."