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Two Part-Time Trenton Police Department Officers Speak Out at City Meeting

By LYDIA BERGLAR
News Editor

The November 13th meeting of the City of Trenton Commission was light on business but included a significant citizens participation portion during which two officers explained their concerns about a recent court case in which Mike Norris (police commissioner) testified.

The commission voted to implement increased court fees in 2024 after comparing them to similar fees in nearby cities.

The commission plans to finalize design standards for RV parks and ordinances for tiny homes within the city limits at the December meeting. Alex Case (mayor) asked the commissioners for their feedback on the plans so that they could be implemented by January.

Ansel Smith (building inspector) recommended a 1,000 square foot minimum for all tiny homes, as opposed to different requirements in different zones. Case expanded on this, explaining that the goal is to keep out portable buildings, sheds listed as residences, or anything that doesn’t meet International Building Code (IBC) standards.

Norris read the police report. In October, the Trenton Police Department answered 269 calls for service, conducted 1,590 business checks, answered six alarm calls, responded to eight domestic disturbance calls, eight trespassing calls, 17 suspicious activity calls, and worked 21 traffic crashes. 88 traffic stops resulted in 55 citations being issued.

Terry Powell (parks/animal control commissioner) noted that Jenkins Park is continuing to have vandalism problems in the bathrooms. He said, “If anyone sees anything, please call the police. It’s starting to get expensive because it’s a regular thing.”

Lucretia Houts (fire and utility commissioner) read the fire report. In October, the Trenton Fire Department had 83 calls, 32 of which were canceled en route and nine of which were fire related.

Eloise Gass gave a short Tree City USA update, Mindy Haworth (manager of Dade County Public Library) reported on recent library news, and Sandy White (Alliance for Dade president and CEO) noted that Light Up Trenton is happening at approximately 6 p.m. on December 2nd (the same day as the Dade Expo). White added that there are new magnets, mugs, and t-shirts available at the Alliance for Dade visitor’s center.

During Citizens Participation, two Dade County Sheriff’s Office sergeants who have worked part-time with the Trenton Police Department spoke about a recent court case in which Norris testified. Chad Payne (public information officer) and Casey York (deputy commander of the Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force) explained that Norris’ testimony caused distrust of the police commissioner and uncertainty about leadership among officers.

Both Payne and York noted how much they enjoy serving the community, and specifically how much they have enjoyed working with Trenton PD. Both have picked up extra shifts with Trenton PD as part-time officers, but both resigned from the department at this meeting.

Payne explained that on February 3rd, 2023, officers from DCSO and Trenton PD responded to a domestic dispute call involving one woman and two men. Per Superior Court dispositions, those involved were Shelby Hall, Daniel Price Hall, and Danny Hixson Hall.

Payne said, “During the course of our investigation, one of the males said he was not going to give us his information. Georgia law says otherwise. If we’re there investigating a crime, we have every right in the world to ask somebody for their ID. They, by law, are required to identify themselves to us. If not, that’s either obstruction, failure to obey the order of a police officer, several different things.”

Payne explained that a DCSO officer told the male that he would go to jail if he did not comply, and an altercation ensued with both of the male Halls, all of which was documented on body cameras. This footage was used in court.

Payne said, “At that time, a sergeant from Trenton PD showed up because prior to this call, there was a call at Taco Bell involving these same subjects that possibly involved a domestic and a firearm…There’s a whole lot of screaming and irate behavior between both subjects and our law enforcement. Our guys did an excellent job and got them into custody.”

Payne explained that the Halls wanted a jury trial, which they received. “They ended up being convicted on all accounts of what we charged them with. During the course of that trial, Mr. Norris testified for the defendants, in essence testifying against his officer and also all of my officers.”

Of Norris’ testimony, Payne first explained, “One of the things that Mr. Norris testified to is that he is the direct supervisor of the Trenton City police officers. That is not correct. Chief Beaudoin is the supervisor.”

Second, “He also testified that our officers unlawfully requested ID from a suspect. Again, that’s false…We had every right under Georgia law to ask them for their ID.”

Third, “Next, he testified that he agreed with the defense that the officers had no probable cause to arrest the suspect. The district Attorney, the jury, and multiple judges disagreed with Mr. Norris…He also testified that the suspect had the right to interfere with an unlawful arrest. Now, that is true…if the arrest is in fact unlawful. However, that arrest was lawful, and again, they were convicted on it.”

Fourth, after seeing the body camera footage, Norris stated that his opinion of the character of the subjects had not changed.

Fifth, Payne said, “Another thing that he said is that his officers should’ve been disciplined if they were involved in that. One of them was involved, but he was not disciplined because he did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Payne concluded by noting his resignation from his role with Trenton PD, saying, “Maybe, one day, when things change, I’d love to come back…I will not associate myself with somebody who stands up there and says that their officers did wrong…When you do your officers that way, you lose all faith they have in you.”

York then spoke, agreeing completely with Payne’s speech. He said that he was not on the scene during the incident, but he did see the footage, read the report, and talk to multiple witnesses.

York said, “After hearing from the firsthand observers of what Commissioner Norris said, to me, he either blatantly testified out of pure ignorance or, even worse, unethically. When you have somebody in that authority who is willing to give up any integrity and not back the lawful actions of law enforcement, there’s no way I could in good conscience continue to work for the city.”

Case briefly thanked Payne and York for their time and said he was sorry this had happened to them.

Norris responded, “The man that was on trial, I’ve known him for over 35 years. I didn’t know anything about the case, didn’t want to…All the defense attorney was supposed to ask me was about the defendant helping law enforcement in the past, which he’s helped law enforcement a lot in the past…I wasn’t there for nor against anybody…When a friend calls you to ask you to help him…if he’s a real friend, you help him.”

He continued, “[The defense] asked me, if the officer made a false arrest, what would I have to do. I said that he’d probably have to be disciplined…He showed me the video…I told the attorney…if it was unlawful arrest, yes, anybody in this room’s got the right to resist…Things got kinda twisted around since I testified up there…I hate to lose two good men, but good luck to you.”

Payne responded, “If you set out to just help a friend and just testify to his character, you sadly missed the mark based off of what everybody else perceived.”

The Sentinel was unable to access the court transcript due to it not yet being filed. However, the dispositions showed that Danny Hixson Hall was found guilty of Obstruction of an Officer while Daniel Price Hall was found guilty of Simple Battery, Family Violence and Hindering Emergency Telephone Call.

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