Former Salisbury officer cries foul following firing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

SALISBURY — A former Salisbury officer said he was fired in November after raising safety concerns during a Taser training session last summer.
Kenny Lane, a 22-year veteran at the Salisbury Police Department, told the Post Friday he was canned nearly three months after he told Salisbury Police officials he didn’t want to be shocked during a mandatory training meeting in August.
After a dispute with the training supervisor, Lane said, he was promptly asked to leave the room.
“Once they told me to leave, the other officers I spoke to said they were afraid to voice their concerns,” Lane said.
When he filed a memorandum with his superior officer about the incident on Sept. 5, he was interviewed and later fired the following month on the grounds of insubordination, untruthfulness and violation of Garrity. Garrity Rights protect government employees from incriminating themselves during a criminal investigation.
Lane is in his final stage of appeal — which is being reviewed by Salisbury City Manager Doug Paris. His previous two appeals, one to Police Chief Rory Collins, and a second to Human Resources Manager Ruth Kennerly, were upheld. Kennerly also sat in on the internal investigation and signed Lane’s termination letter, records show.
Paris “is currently reviewing the grievance and there is no set timeline for when a final determination will be made,” said Elaney Hasselmann, the city’s public information officer, in an e-mail Friday.
Citing the review, Police Chief Rory Collins declined to comment.
Prior to the mandatory meeting on Aug. 15, Lane said, he was told users had the option of being shocked by the department-issued Taser.
But when he arrived, he was told otherwise.
Sgt. Rodney Mahaley “ordered me to leave if I would not submit to be shocked,” Lane said.
Concerned over the safety of the weapon, Lane said he had previously asked not to carry a Taser — which meant he didn’t have to be shocked.
According to a 2011 Taser policy manual, law enforcement departments are not required to force Taser-wielding officers to be shocked. But they often do.
Kannapolis Police Deputy Chief Terry Clanton said his department requires officers who carry a Taser to undergo a half-second to a full-second drive-stun shock as part of their initial qualification.
“It’s a direct exposure,” Clanton said. “The officers have a choice. We don’t mandate that they carry it.”
But during the Salisbury Police meeting, Lane said, some officers were shocked multiple times in a “frat party”-like atmosphere where officers were forced to run an obstacle course while being chased with a stun gun.
Lane was not present for the obstacle course but said he spoke with several officers afterward.
One of those officers, a female detective, told Lane she was stunned despite having a doctor’s note prohibiting her from being involved in the exercise, he said.
Lane said the exercise had no practical application for training.
“What’s the training value of inflicting pain?” he asked.
Being fired for untruthfulness and insubordination has made getting a job in law enforcement nearly impossible, Lane said. The hardship fuels his appeals.
Lane said he has not been given a specific instance of the insubordination charge.
He questions the others, too.
The untruthfulness violation — which was omitted in an appeal response from Chief Collins to Lane — stems from his memo detailing the training incident, Lane said.
Lane said officials refused to answer questions about the violations and would not expound on the false portion of the memo.
Lastly, Lane said, the violation of Garrity was issued after Lane refused to provide Human Resources Manager Ruth Kennerly with names of those in his squad who privately voiced concerns.
“The whole purpose of the question was to find them and retaliate against them,” Lane said. “It’s obvious to me that’s what they were looking to do.”
Lane faced a disciplinary actions one other time, a disciplinary action report showed.
He was suspended in 2011 after supervisors accused him of refusing to help a fellow officer with an assignment and making “comments that were disrespectful and unbecoming of your position when referring to the chief of police.”
Lane said he had been assigned to a separate assignment by the chief when the other officer asked for assistance. He had no recollection of disrespectful comments toward the chief.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.