Iron Ford
  • Deputy Smith Resigns
    Internet Contact with Students Led to Removal as School Resource Officer


    Friday, February 24, 2017

    Perry County Deputy Jesse Smith was questioned, removed as the county schools resource officer and reassigned, suspended and subsequently resigned following allegations of inappropriate internet communication with a student.

    Earlier this month Sheriff Steve Bareis confirmed to the Pinckneyville Press/Du Quoin Weekly newspapers that Smith, who was hired to be the School’s resource officer in early 2015, had been taken off of the school resource duty back in November of last year and resigned his position with the Sheriff’s Department on January 16. Bareis declined further comment on the matter siting employer/employee confidentiality. Following the interview, the Press/Weekly staff filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with Perry County, Pinckneyville Community High School and the Du Quoin Community Unit School District seeking further information related to Deputy Smith.

    The FOIA response from Perry County revealed that Smith had been questioned as early as August 2015 about his use of “texting or messaging.” At the time Bareis stated in an investigative narrative, “I called Deputy Smith in and warned him again and told him at that time he was to have no contact with a juvenile on Facebook, Snapchat, email, or any other social media outlet.” It was not the first time Smith, who is married, was warned by Bareis about “inappropriate contact with other women and girls.”

    Bareis added that, “since the (name redacted) incident it has come to my attention that last school year that he (referring to Smith) was emailing (name redacted) while on duty. (Name redacted) stated that the contact was strange and she finally just stopped responding to his emails.”

    The narrative begins by stating that Bareis had yet another complaint about Smith on Saturday, November 12, 2016 from a Du Quoin parent referring to “inappropriate communications toward her daughter from Deputy Smith. Bareis’ narrative states that he met with the Du Quoin High School Administration and (name redacted) the following Monday. She stated that he (referring the Smith) had messaged her about two weeks ago on personal messenger through Facebook. In Bareis’ narrative he writes that the student further stated, “she was kind of weirded out by the contact and told her mom.”

    The FOIA response from the School District stated that “no formal complaints have been filed with the Du Quoin Community Unit School District #300.”

    Following the meeting with the Du Quoin High School Administration and the female student Bareis and Perry County Sgt. Scott Kellerman met with Smith in the Sheriff’s investigations office. Bareis stated that Smith three times denied having “any contact with a juvenile on Facebook or any other social media or email,” but when asked specifically about the student in question Smith admitted to the contact. Smith then tried at that point to explain his reasons for the messaging. Bareis then writes in the narrative that he offered to “connect” Smith “with counseling” for the issue. Bareis then wrote that Smith “did not respond.” Smith was then pulled from his duties as the schools resource officer and placed on patrol duty. Bareis continued the narrative stating that Smith “showed agitation and said okay, and got up and walked out.” “I did not release him (Smith) and I had more to talk to him about,” Bareis added.

    That Wednesday, November 16, 2016, Bareis wrote that he stopped at PCHS and spoke with Superintendent Hagene and Principal Foutch about Smith being reassigned. Bareis writes that, “they (referring to Hagene and Foutch) advised they too had two reports of inappropriate behavior.”

    A FOIA response from PCHS Stated, “that there are no documents on file pertaining to your request.”

    Bareis ended the narrative by stating that he found Smith to be in violation of Departments Rules and Regulations by Disobedience to Orders, his On/Off Duty Conduct and Behavior unbecoming of an Officer under the Sheriff’s ethics policy.

    According to a resolution dated November 21, 2017, included in the FOIA release, between the Sheriff’s office and the Fraternal Order of Police, Labor Council in addition to being reassigned to patrol, Smith received a four day suspension and agreed not to file a grievance over the discipline.

    The FOIA request also disclosed a Separation Agreement between the Sheriff’s Department and Smith dated January 12, 2017. In the agreement, the County agreed to pay Smith one months severance plus all accrued benefit time. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department agreed not to disclose issues with Smith’s employment to potential employers unless Smith consented to the disclosure, not fight an unemployment claim by Smith and not to release any information about Smith unless someone filed a valid FOIA request for his records.

    Following the FOIA response the Press asked Sheriff Bareis if it would have been better if an outside agency had handled the investigation. Bareis stated that, “If I had any indication of any criminal activity it would have been turned over to the State Police.”

    The Press’s attempts to reach out to Smith were unsuccessful as of press time.

     

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