PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Three Panama City police officers are awaiting trial in the Bay County court system.
In July of last year, Officer William Rhodes was caught on camera striking a man in the face while he was handcuffed. Rhodes was charged with battery and placed on administrative leave. He was later fired. Rhodes appeared in court this week and his jury trial date was set. He will face a jury on May 11.
In December, Michael Bernard Johnson, 20, was charged with one count of possession of child pornography, and two counts of child abuse, among other charges.
Johnson’s arrest report said he used social media to solicit and distribute videos depicting sexual acts from teenage boys.
He was fired during his arrest.
In February, Officer Voisiar Macon was charged with battery after he allegedly used a front leg sweep to throw a victim face-first into a tile floor. According to the arrest report, Macon was taking a man to the hospital for a Baker Act when he allegedly battered him.
Macon was placed on administrative leave.
All three men are awaiting trial in their respective cases.
Meanwhile, another person has come forward alleging that Macon seriously harmed her while he was placing her under arrest.
The incident happened during a traffic stop at the Panama City Mardi Gras celebration in February. The woman, Arieyanna Nichols, wrote in a complaint filed with the Panama City Police Department that Macon was in a rage when he took her down and slammed her head into a parking lot for “no reason.”
“He beat me into the ground until I was on the brink of becoming unconscious,” she added. “He refused to stop, even though people, witnesses & family members were telling him to stop – to get off of me … & that I was disabled & he was going to kill me.”
Nichols said that she sustained life-threatening injuries from the incident and required three months of intensive care to recover.
In her arrest report, a different officer wrote that Nichols possessed less than 20 grams of marijuana and that she attacked an officer (presumably Macon) by scratching him in the face with her fingernails. The officer wrote that Macon needed medical treatment for the scratching.
However, the felony case was ultimately dropped. Court records show Nichols plead guilty to a misdemeanor possession charge.
Chief Scott Ervin said he is not at liberty to discuss the Macon case. However, he pointed out that in each case it was the department who took in the complaint and then arrested and charged the officers with breaking the law.
“Anytime we receive a complaint we are going to investigate it thoroughly just like we would any other allegation from the community,” Ervin said. “If we find there are violations of law we are going to take those to the State Attorney and charge those appropriately.”
He added that the agency takes background checks seriously but no alarm bells went off with these officers. He also noted that even if an officer had at one time been charged with a crime, agencies have to treat them like a member of the public. If the charges are busted down to a misdemeanor or dropped altogether, the individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Sometimes you don’t know,” Ervin said.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial, all three men could have their certification to be law enforcement officers revoked.
Law enforcement certifications are overseen by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Under Florida law officers are stripped of their badges and careers automatically if they are convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving perjury or false statements.
The FDLE could also revoke a certification if an investigation determines that an officer failed to maintain “good moral character.”
Ervin confirmed that when PCPD conducts an internal affairs investigation along with possible criminal charges the agency sends the report to the FDLE for review.
“We’re held to a higher standard,” he said.