Cops argue, charges filed

Published 9:00 pm Friday, January 18, 2013

A heated exchange among area law enforcement officers led to the assistant commander and the secretary of the Drug Task Force filing complaints against an Andalusia Police Department officer, who was arrested on two harassment charges Thursday.

APD Officer R.C. Covington turned himself in to the Covington County Jail Thursday and was charged with two counts of misdemeanor harassment.

He was released later that afternoon on a $6,000 bond.

Last year, the Andalusia Police Department left the Drug Task Force. The DTF, funded in part by a grant, is now comprised of officers from the county sheriff’s department and Opp Police Department, with financial support from other departments.

Officer Covington went to the DTF office with APD Lt. Paul Dean Wednesday, because the APD was using DTF equipment for an investigation, APD Chief Wilbur Williams said. Two other APD officers had already been to the DTF office that morning.

In her statement, the DTF secretary, Amanda Hart, said she told the first two officers that the DTF was happy to work with any APD officer except Covington.

When Dean and Covington arrived, Covington sat on the sofa in the waiting area, her statement said. She sent a text to the DTF commander and assistant commander, David Harrell, informing them that Covington was in the office.

Harrell’s statement said that when he arrived, he said to Covington, “What are you doing here, I didn’t think you’d be around here after I was kicked out of the Andalusia Police Department.”

According to Harrell’s statement, Covington replied, “I didn’t kick you no (expletive deleted) where.” The verbal exchange escalated, according to both statements.

Harrell stated that he walked outside to make contact with the 911 center and requested a deputy.

Harrell’s statement said that Dean motioned for Covington to leave, and that Covington “positioned himself very close to my face and then stated, “(Expletive deleted), David Harrell.”

Harrell stated in was “an attempt to threaten and provoke me into a physical altercation.”

His statement said that he told his DTF co-workers “(APD Assistant Police Chief) Mike Bowlan and Paul Dean will not be able to stop me from going to Mayor Johnson and filing a complaint like they have been able to do with everyone else.”

Harrell’s statement said that Covington’s actions “impeded me in the performance of my duties as the assistant commander of the drug task force.”

Chief Williams said that his department is supporting and defending Covington in the charges that arose from “an unfortunate set of circumstances that should have been handled in a more professional way.”

Williams accompanied Covington when he turned himself in to county officers, and said that Sheriff Dennis Meeks at that time handed Williams and Covington a letter stating Covington was not to be on the premises of the DTF office. The letter was signed by Meeks as chairman of the DTF board. It was the first notification he or Covington had received, Williams said.

Meeks said Friday that he wrote the letter in direct response to the exchange that occurred Wednesday, and that the letter stated Covington was not to be at the DTF office unless he had business there. Meeks said he didn’t know why Covington’s presence at the DTF office prompted the secretary to notify her supervisors.

Williams said the incident to which Harrell referred in his statement about being “kicked out” of the APD office occurred during the time the APD was exiting from the DTF. He said Harrell’s then-supervisor, Opp Chief Nickey Carnley, had stated that his officer was not to participate in investigations with APD.

“I was protecting him, not us,” Williams said.