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Griffin Police Department and the Media - PART II
By Editor Becky Watts

GRIFFIN - Pike County Times had some issues receiving press releases from the Griffin Police Department (PD) earlier this year. In the course of trying to work with the PD to obtain these press releases by email, the public information officer (PIO) for the PD made a derogatory comment about a member of the local news media complaining of being treated unfairly. This prompted Pike County Times to conduct an investigation of the Atlanta and local news media through open records requests in order to find out whether there was any merit to this complaint.

Pike County Times obtained information through a series of open records requests for any and all emails sent from FOXTV, 11Alive, Griffin Daily News, and the GRIP sent to Capt. Natale, Sgt. Wilson, and Chief Yates of the Griffin Police Department from January 22 through March 20, 2019. Extreme care was taken to evaluate if there were any differences in how the PD responded to these specific media entities.

While these responses may not be a complete “apples to apples” comparison, it will be enough to show a pattern that has emerged with the Griffin Police Department and one local press member. This pattern is pretty common knowledge for newspaper readers in the Griffin/Spalding area because it has been an ongoing problem for a long period of time.

Care was taken to note if each entity received the information that was requested, the length of time between the request and delivery of information, whether each entity was able to obtain their information from the PIO or was required to go through special channels, and whether Chief Yates and/or the current Public Information Officer (PIO) answered requests for information in a professional and efficient manner according to the Standard Operating Procedures of the Griffin Police Department.

Then interaction between Chief Yates and Pike County Times that goes back more than one year will be noted along with the inclusion of a series of screen shots from a 2018 post on the Griffin Police Department’s official Facebook page. There is also a section devoted to Chief Yates forwarding local media emails to a reporter from the Griffin Daily News. This article is long but length is needed to show a pattern of behavior is developing the media in general and against one media source in particular.

All of this evidence can be duplicated using the terms included in this article. If you are opening Part II of this series and have not read Part I, it would be helpful to start at the beginning by clicking here to read Griffin Police Department and the Media - PART I.

Griffin Police Department Media Policy

Pike County Times asked for and received standard operating procedures (SOP) from the City Manager’s Office through email on February 6, 2019. This policy became effective on July 31, 2017. SOP is important because following standard procedures with both local and Atlanta media would ensure that everyone would be treated in the same manner and would receive requested information within the same general time frame. This would prevent complaints of unfair treatment from any member of the media.

Readers can read this version of SOP in its entirety by clicking here: GPDSOPChapter29PublicInformation5.31.17.pdf. Please note that policy was changed on May 16, 2019 after the interview between Pike County Times and the Chief of Police Mike Yates in early April. There will be an opportunity for readers to compare the old and new policies at a later date when it is pertinent to the information provided in this series of articles. However, at this time in this series of articles, the old SOP applied and should have been followed by the Chief and any of the PIO’s representing the Griffin Police Department.

Chapter 29.1.1 is entitled Public Information Policy and states: “It is the policy of the Griffin Police Department to cooperate fully and I (sic) impartially with the news media in their efforts to gather and disseminate factual information that is consistent with established procedures and where such activities do not subvert the ends of justice, infringe upon individual rights or privacy, or upon individual rights to a fair and impartial trial.”

The policy further states in 29.1.2 that Griffin PD will cooperate with the news media “in giving them information in which they have expressed interest about the department’s operations, as well as about situations for which the department wishes to generate interest” including assisting news personnel in covering news stories including at the scene of accidents, being available “for on call response to the news media,” news conferences, authorizing the release of appropriate information about victims, witnesses, and suspects, coordinating a liaison and assisting in crisis situations, and coordinating and authorizing the release of information in confidential investigations and operations when the release is appropriate.

The Public Information Officer (PIO) has specific responsibilities in section 29.1.3 including coordinating and releasing information to the local news media, informing the media of changes in policy and procedures concerning the release of information or media access, encouraging agencies to participate in the formation of information policy, assisting in media coverage of events, etc. There are special cases in which the media is referred to other personnel at the PD but overall, the media works with the PIO to receive information from Griffin PD according to SOP.

According to SOP, routine media inquiries should go through the PIO and “Press releases shall be prepared as required by the Public Information Officer and distributed to local Newspapers and radio and television.” Note that the words “Shall be” are pretty strong language that has been written in this policy. Depending on one’s interpretation of “prepared” and “distributed,” placing press releases on Facebook without actually sending them to local media could be a violation of the PD’s written policy.

There is a list of other specifics noted in this policy, but in general, SOP states that all members of the local media go through the PIO in order to get information. Here are the results of the first open records request that investigated whether Atlanta and local media are being treated the same. Special care was taken to examine whether any local entity is being singled out for specialized treatment from the PD.

LensLock Body Camera Footage

Some background information is needed so readers can understand what these press releases were about and why video was being requested. LensLock is a California based technology company that provides body worn cameras and in-car video for police departments across the country including Griffin Police Department. Camera footage is uploaded to a cloud server that has a specific platform built for each department that can only be accessed by those in command staff who have been authorized to view, download, and share these videos.

LensLock uses a tracking system (somewhat like fingerprints) to show who viewed the data, what date and time it was accessed, what IP address was used to view it, and who shared what camera footage with what email address. This cloud-based service makes the job of sharing body camera footage with a news agency very easy because the person in the command structure logs into the cloud, accesses the correct body camera footage, and then emails the link to the entity who requested it rather than having to download data to a disc and then the entity pick it up. This information is needed to understand the responses to the first set of questions from Pike County Times in this investigation.

Click here to read about LensLock.

First Open Records Request

The first Open Records Request (ORR) asked the City of Griffin for “electronic copy of any and all emails sent from FOXTV, 11Alive, Griffin Daily News, and the Grip sent to Capt. Natale, Sgt. Wilson, and Chief Yates of the Griffin Police Department dated January 22nd through February 5, 2019 as well as the replies to those requests.” A disc with over 1,500 emails was the result. The cost was $25.42 broken down below.
$ 5.42 Admin – ¼ hour at lowest paid full-time employee ($21.80 per hour)
19.00 IT – 3/4 hour at lowest paid full-time employee capable to search, retrieve and copy approximately 1500 emails that fulfilled the above-stated criteria
(first ¼ hour of $25.32 per hour employee for one hour is at no charge)
1.00 DVD
$25.42 Due City of Griffin

The following was included on that disc of open records information provided by the City of Griffin.

Results of This Open Records Request

Fox 5 News

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019 10:14 a.m. Claire Simms from Fox 5 Atlanta sent a link to a Facebook video to Sgt. Chris Wilson (acting PIO at that time) and asked if the police department was looking into the video and whether someone could speak to her about it. Sgt. Wilson then forwarded that email to Chief Mike Yates. Claire also sent an email to Chief Yates that afternoon advising that they were working on a story about a video on social media regarding the traffic stop of Josh McDowell that occurred the day before and asked that any video link, news release, or statement about the incident be emailed to her.

Chief Yates advised at 2:18 p.m. that “I think I will have something for you within the hour.” At 3 p.m. Sgt. Wilson sent a note to Claire advising that he would share the PD’s response to the attention that social media has brought from this video and that Capt. Natale would share the link to the body cam. According to the emails obtained by Pike County Times, Citizen Engagement Specialist Brian Miller sent the link to Capt. Natale who then forwarded that link to Claire at 3:30 p.m. who confirmed that she had received it at 3:38 p.m.

[Note from the Editor: The original email was sent at 10:14 a.m. from Fox 5 Atlanta and the press release was prepared and the link to the body cam was shared on the same day by 3:38 p.m.] Here is a link to Claire’s story: Griffin Police: Officer did not use excessive force.

11 Alive News

On Friday, February 1, 2019 at 11 a.m. Jon Shirek of 11Alive News sent an email to follow up on the press release from the PD’s Facebook page. He asked if anyone could tape a brief interview on camera that day as well asking for a copy of the incident report, the officer’s body cam video, investigation updates, and the drug case related to the case. Jon sent a follow up after lunch and received an email from Sgt. Wilson at 1:44 p.m. apologizing for the late response and advising that Capt. Natale could send a link to the body cam footage, check on the incident report, and see if the drug case was active or closed. He declined an on-camera interview and advised that the Facebook post was all they were putting out to the media at that time. Diane Martin sent the report to Jon at 2:03 p.m.

The email was cc’d to Chief Yates and Capt. Natale. The LensLock link to the body camera footage was sent from Capt. Natale and an incident report was sent from Diane Martin shortly thereafter. At 2:56 p.m. Jon hit reply all to an email that advised that he had received the incident report and asked if the email from LensLock was from the PD. Chief Yates confirmed that the LensLock email was from the PD at 3:05 p.m.

[Note from the Editor: Capt. Natale and Sgt. Wilson also chimed in on the last email, but essentially this request was placed at 11 a.m. and finished out at 3:05 p.m. on the same day.]

Here is a link to Jon’s story: Griffin Police defends officer after viral video shows questionable use of force


On Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 4:52 p.m. Sheila Mathews from the GRIP sent an email to Sgt. Wilson asking if the PD would be sending out a press release on the arrest of Joshua McDowell. Item of note: This information had been made available to Fox 5 a little over an hour earlier (at 3:38 p.m.) on this very same day of Sheila’s request. Reading the next email makes it seem that a text message was sent from Sheila to Sgt. Wilson, and Sgt. Wilson replied that he would send the info when he came into work the next morning.

On Thursday, January 31 at 12:02 p.m. Sheila sent a follow up advising that she still hadn’t received the information that Sgt. Wilson was going to send when he got to the PD that morning and asked if he would be able to get that to her soon. Sheila said that it was her understanding that the PD had released the body cam footage to the media and asked for a link to that recording as well.

On Friday, February 1, 2019 at 9:48 a.m. Sgt. Wilson replied to Sheila with a cc’d email to Capt. Natale and Capt. Homer Daniel (from CID) advising that he would have Capt. Natale send her a link to the body camera footage of this incident. He also advised that the information on Facebook was all that the PD was releasing and apologized for the late response due to the prior day being a “full day for me and I was unable to get to my emails until this morning.” Capt. Natale, who had been authorized to send the link to all other media entities, then forwarded the request to Chief Mike Yates at 10 a.m. on Friday, February 1 with a subject line that read “FW: Information.” Chief Yates attempted to send the LensLock link to Sheila at 10:15 a.m. but was unsuccessful. At 4:43 p.m. Sheila sent an email to Capt. Natale asking, “Will you be sending this link today?” but received no answer.

Sheila insisted that she never received a copy of the link to the body worn camera footage so Pike County Times asked for by open records and received a copy of a Chain of Custody Audit Trail on the body worn camera footage that showed Chief Yates at a City of Griffin IP computer on Friday, February 1, 2019 at 7:15 a.m. (Pacific Time is 10:15 a.m. Georgia time) sharing a copy of the body camera footage to an email that was one letter off from Sheila’s actual email address.

A question that will be asked is why Chief Yates sent this link to Sheila rather than Captain Natale who had sent the link to all other news media who asked for it. Pike County Times was also curious why Captain Natale didn’t follow up when Sheila sent an email at the end of the day advising that she had still not received the link. This will be addressed in Part III of this series through an in-person interview with Chief Yates. [Note from the Editor: The GRIP asked for the information on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 4:52 p.m. just 1 hour and 14 minutes after Fox 5 had received a press release and the LensLock link to the incident. The GRIP never received a copy of the link according to Open Records that Pike County Times obtained much later.]

Griffin Daily News

On Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 1:04 p.m., Karen Gunnels of the Griffin Daily News emailed Diane Martin and asked for a copy of an incident report. Diane Martin emailed it at 2:17 p.m. [Note from the Editor: Diane Martin is quick to respond to requests for information from these emails.]

On Wednesday, January 31, 2019 at 12:22 p.m. Karen emailed Sgt. Wilson and asked if there was anything to a Facebook post regarding someone with a gun in the Griffin High School parking lot the previous night. On Friday February 1, 2019 at 8:43 a.m. Sgt. Wilson replied that there was an issue with a gun at Griffin High but there was no person-to-person crime or so-called victims. He asked to speak to command staff before the PD released any information on this. At 10:08 a.m. Karen followed up with a question regarding a statement from Griffin High School about a student in the parking lot with a weapon and whether it was related. At 4:53 p.m. Karen asked whether there would be another statement about the gun incident at Griffin High School or she should use the one that he originally sent that morning. At 5:37 p.m. Sgt. Wilson sent information that prompted a 5:44 p.m. response from Karen of profuse thanks. [Note from the Editor: Griffin Daily News asked for the information on January 31 at 12:22 p.m. and received the information needed at 5:44 p.m. on February 1.]

Second Open Records Request

One incident doesn’t make a pattern of behavior so Pike County Times made a second Open Records Request.

The original request was for more information than this, but when the cost came back for more $75.96, the request was pared down to essential information that mirrored the first request asking for: “an electronic copy of any and all emails sent from FOXTV, 11Alive, Griffin Daily News, and the Grip sent to Capt. Natale, Sgt. Wilson, and Chief Yates of the Griffin Police Department dated February 5, 2019 through February 25, 2019 as well as the replies to those requests.”

The breakdown of cost for this is as follows:
$37.98 Time spent by IT at lowest-paid, full-time person capable of performing task (1.5 hours at $25.32/hour)
$16.28 Time spent by Admin to download by individual component (9 folders with 285 emails total) and search terms (1 hour at $21.70 with ¼ hr. N/C)
$ 1.00 CD
$55.26 Total due City of Griffin

($25.42 for original request plus $55.26 for the second request equals $80.68 paid to the City of Griffin for these two open records requests.) On March 21, Pike County Times sent an email to the City of Griffin which advised, “I have a question on this ORR. Your email below says that my disc should contain 9 folders with 285 emails total, but the picture shows what I have which is 6 folders and much less than 285 emails. I am concerned about being factual with my article. Can you ask IT about this and advise what I should do? Thank you for your help on this.”

Mrs. Watson spoke with IT and sent an email on March 28 that confirmed that the number of folders is correct with only 6 folders and much less than 285 emails. She apologized for the error and advised that the response was complete and that time spent “was correctly assessed based on IT’s provision of time spent. If you need me to do a certification of documents to that effect, I will be happy to comply.” Pike County Times did not ask for further clarification on this set of emails, but it is by mutual agreement that admin will not download and separate results (further inflating costs) with future requests.

In this response, Pike County Times examined more interactions between the news media and the Griffin Police Department to see if any patterns emerged.

Fox 5 News

On Friday, February 8, 2019 at 10:08 p.m. Fox 5’s Tiffany Griffith emailed a request for information on a pursuit that occurred on Taylor Street around 9 p.m. that same evening. Witnesses had provided the newsroom with a copy of the pursuit, and she asked PIO Wilson if he could provide further information. PIO Wilson replied by email on Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 2:23 p.m. that Griffin PD attempted to clear the intersection through town for this pursuit for other agencies that initiated the pursuit but that he had no further information.

On Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 11:36 a.m., William Nunley of Fox 5 News contacted PIO Wilson with a request for a follow up statement about automobile break ins. He asked for body or dash cam footage, suspect information, and if someone could do a quick interview. On Monday, February 18, 2019 at 12:20 p.m. Sgt. Wilson apologized for the wait due to his being an investigator on this case, advised that he would be issuing an information release on this, and said that he would get back to him about an interview. At 2:20 p.m. a request was made for an interview before the close of business. At 2:50 p.m. Sgt. Wilson gave what information was available and advised that he would be happy to do a brief interview.

[Note from the Editor: Fox 5’s Tiffany Griffith asked for information on Friday, February 8, 2019 at 10:08 p.m. and received the information on Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 2:23 p.m. Fox 5’s William Nunley asked for information on Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 11:36 a.m. and received it on Monday, February 18, 2019 at 2:50 p.m.]


On Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 9:40 p.m. Sheila Mathews from the GRIP sent an email to Sgt. Wilson asking for a link to view Officer Kyle Bradford’s body worn camera coverage regarding case number 19-001320. [Note from the Editor: This is the same officer from the prior requests but a different incident.] On Thursday, February 21 at 3:34 p.m. she sent a follow up email to Sgt. Wilson that was carbon copied (cc’d) to Capt. Michael Natale and Chief Mike Yates asking, “When may I anticipate receiving this link?” At 3:44 p.m. Sgt. Wilson replied and said, “Sorry Mrs. Mathews. To gain access for this body camera video footage of this arrest, I will have to refer you to the Open Records request process. There are no special circumstances for the release of this video by the Griffin Police Department in regards to this matter. If access to this video is required for the completion of your article follow-up, you will have to obtain the video through the proper process. Thank you for your concern in this matter.”

Sheila replied at 4:32 p.m. and asked why she was “being required to go to greater lengths to obtain body worn camera footage than other media outlet(s) that have requested the same type of information?” At 4:43 p.m. Sgt. Wilson replied that no one has requested “this body camera footage” and that she “is being treated the same as if someone were to request this video.”

At 4:53 p.m. Sheila replied and carbon copied Sgt. Wilson, Chief Yates, Capt. Natale, City Manager Kenny Smith, City Attorneys Jessica O’Conner and Drew Whalen, and members of the City of Griffin Commission with her response that asked why her request for body worn camera footage would be treated any differently than that of any other media outlet and specified that her question pertained to this general type of information and not just to this specific body camera footage. “In other words, if another media outlet can simply email the Police Department and request video recordings and promptly receive it, why are you requiring me to submit a formal Open Records request to the city of Griffin? I am requesting equal treatment. Nothing more, nothing less.”

At 7:02 p.m. Sgt. Wilson replied to everyone on the previous email to assure Mrs. Mathews that she was not being treated any differently regarding her request for body worn camera footage. He advised that the PD handles requests for videos “on an individual basis depending on the status of the case and the nature of the case.” He said that in this particular case, no one else had requested this video and that if they had, they would received the same answer “that the case had not been adjudicated and the footage includes areas where the defendant has an expectation of privacy.”

He then explained that in a previous incident, a news outlet had requested a copy or link to a video and the PD decided “given the specific nature of the case, and the public concern regarding same, to release the video prior to adjudication (which is an option we may exercise when we feel it is appropriate.)” He went on to say that in that previous case, “before the news outlet was given permission to the link, I first gave permission to The Grip.” He then included snapshots of a previous email in which he asked Capt. Natale to send the link to Sheila as well as a snapshot sent to 11 Alive’s Jon Shirek where he advised Jon that he would be asking Capt. Natale to send the body worn camera footage link to him.

The only problem with this scenario is that the snapshot shows that Sheila’s email address was off by one letter, and emails asking for this information after it was supposedly sent did not catch the mistake so The GRIP never received this body camera link like the Atlanta stations did even though she requested it within the same time frame.

It also appears that Sheila was sent up the chain of command to Chief Yates in order to receive this link rather than receiving the link through Capt. Natale like the other news media. This inconsistency will be addressed in Part III of this series which contains an in-person interview with Chief Mike Yates who was the person who sent the link to The GRIP rather than PIO Capt. Natale who sent it to everyone else.

Pike County Times obtained more open records from this time period, but rather than being redundant—because it looks like there is a pattern here that needs to be addressed—the next part of this series will be the Pike County Times interview with Chief Mike Yates which addresses actions that seem to contradict current, written procedures with Griffin PD.

Interaction Between Chief Yates and Pike County Times

Pike County Times’ Editor Becky Watts and Chief Mike Yates had not met in person prior to the in-person interview that will be the subject of Part III of this series, but it has been Pike County Times’ experience when asking a question of the police department both then and now that questions will either be answered immediately or the silence is deafening with no response whatsoever.

This silence has occurred by email and on Griffin Police Department’s Facebook page both then and now. Silence occurred in the incident described in Part I of this series around the beginning of the year when asking whether a press release can be called a “press release” if it has not actually been sent to the media. This was asked by private Facebook message and then on the PD’s Facebook page. Silence happened again on September 19, 2019 when another “press release” was released on Facebook but not sent to the press. Once again, Pike County Times asked online, “Did this actually go out to the press?” and once again, Pike County Times received no response.

An example of an immediate answer was an interaction on Griffin PD’s Facebook page between Chief Mike Yates and Editor Becky Watts in July of 2018 when there a personal attack on a member of the local media and a private citizen concerning the Mathew Boynton case. Well, it was about the Boynton case but on a post concerning another matter.

In this series of comments, Chief Yates copied a post from The GRIP’s Facebook page in which Sheila responded to a reader who asked her about a police incident by saying, “Hey there, Bobbie, Unfortunately, I have no idea. I reached out to GPD Chief Mike Yates - in writing as he has demanded of me - but he did not respond.” Chief Yates cut and pasted this comment on the PD Facebook page under a post about a suicide and said that The GRIP’s Sheila Mathews was incorrect and that the Facebook page “was created to respond to her concerns as well as other media inquiries in an effort to ensure that each media outlet has an absolutely equal access to the information, as Ms. Mathews has requested.” When asked point blank by a member of the public whether he was saying that she was lying, Chief Yates backtracked and said maybe it was a “misunderstanding.”

This conversation can be viewed in snapshots below though part of the conversation has been lost because Chief Yates threatened a citizen with the release of his private Facebook messages through Open Records even though that information was not related to a criminal case. Later on, Chief Yates did exactly what he threatened and released these private messages. That citizen has since deleted his Facebook. Readers can read this article at: GPD releases citizens’ personal Facebook records.

In this Facebook interaction, Chief Yates was speaking for the PD as the Griffin PD Facebook administrator and claimed his words so those reading his responses would know who was speaking on the behalf of the Griffin PD. In this series of responses, Pike County Times condemned Chief Yates’ posts as “completely unprofessional and is an embarrassment to the City of Griffin.”

Click here to read what is left of this Facebook post. Readers will have to click on “all comments” in order to see the conversation. A copy of this conversation is below the article as well.

Chief Yates Forwards Local Media Emails to The Griffin Daily News

Pike County Times is also in receipt of an email that it sent to Chief Yates on April 17, 2019 after the in-person interview with Chief Yates that will be the topicof Part III of this series.

In this email, Pike County Times asked Chief Yates to point out the specific policy or procedure that “allows you the discretion to determine the methods by which information is provided to specific reporters or media outlets.” He answered by directing Pike County Times to Section 29.1.4 which states, “News Releases, Features, Announcements: Responsibility for planning, developing, writing and distributing information and articles about the program and activities of the department and its members rests with the Chief of Police.” He also pointed out that “the policy does not specifically dictate the manner, format, method, frequency or mechanism for the release for information nor is there any requirement that requires or even allows for a media representative to demand contact or information in any particular fashion, means or time frame only that a mechanism for contact exists.”

He then went on to say that the Open Records Act does have “certain parameters in relation to the release of information but nowhere in the act is there a requirement to interview, answer questions or formulate responses other than to produce existing documents subject to disclosure under the act.” He closed by saying that generally and other than Open Records Act requirements, information is “released or exchanged based on efficiency, integrity of information, timeliness and effectiveness to accomplish our law enforcement priorities FIRST with respect to prosecution, protection of the innocent, and to insure the accused right to a fair trial is not compromised. Media contact, entertainment, and information exchange with parties that are not part of the incident is secondary.”

This response was sent to Pike County Times that same afternoon and carbon copied to both PIO Chris Wilson and Griffin City Clerk Teresa Watson. This is pretty standard for Chief Yates so Pike County Times has no complaints about this. However, Chief Yates used his cell phone the next day to forward both Pike County Times’ original emailed questions as well as his carbon copied response to Karen Gunnels from The Griffin Daily News. The body of the email simply said “FYI.” There was no response found in this series of Open Records from The Griffin Daily News. Questions about this behavior will follow after showing that a pattern of behavior is emerging from Chief Yates when it comes to local media who question his authority or ask for the reasons behind some of his actions.

Chief Yates did the same thing with an email from The GRIP on September 11, 2019. Sheila Mathews stated that Chief Yates released private Facebook information to the public that was not related to a criminal case even though the PD has “formally confirmed” that this citizen “has never been the subject of a criminal investigation by your agency” and then he “fabricated and released a document that falsely identifies Sanders as Boynton’s father…” She then cut and pasted parts of policy that pertained to her questions and asked a series of questions about possible violation of the Griffin Police Department Code of Ethics, whether making and disseminating a “false document unrelated to a criminal case” could be deemed “deceptive” and show “personal animosity toward Will Holloway Sanders” as well as asking questions about GPD case files including whether the insertion of a “fabricated document” into a closed criminal file was a violation of SOP, whether the CID intelligence officer approved the placement of this document into the closed criminal file, and whether Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith authorized the dissemination of this false document.

Readers can read The GRIP’s August 24, 2018 article entitled, “GPD releases citizens’ personal Facebook records” by clicking here.

Readers can read The GRIP’s September 20, 2019 article entitled, “GPD Chief fabricated, released record identifying Will Sanders as Matthew Boynton’s father” by clicking here.

Readers can read this entire list of questions in The GRIP’s October 11, 2019 article entitled, “GPD Chief says questions about his actions are “foolishness” by clicking here.

Chief Yates did not respond to The GRIP’s Sheila Mathews in her email from September 11, 2019 sent at 1:31 p.m. However, he forwarded a copy of the email to City Attorney Jessica O’Conner and City Manager Kenny Smith on September 11, 2019 at 2:01 p.m. with the following two sentences in the body of the email: “I am not going to entertain answering this foolishness. Just an FYI.”

Then two days later on September 13, 2019, Chief Yates once again used his iPhone to forward a copy of the original message as well as the forward to Karen Gunnels of The Griffin Daily News with the word “FYI” in the body of the email. Once again, open records do not show where Karen responded to the forwarding of an email questioning the actions and authority of the police chief by the police chief himself.

Pike County Times could have requested the Chief’s phone records for this time to see if he received a phone call from Karen Gunnels after either one of these emails, but without a recording of the call, there is no way to prove why the two may have spoken so this avenue is not being followed. Pike County Times will ask some questions instead.

What would be the reason for Chief Yates sending these emails from two different local media representatives to a reporter for the Griffin Daily News? And would an ordinary reporter look at these emails questioning the Chief and possibly see an underlying threat not to question the chief of police? More questions could be asked here, but the Pike County Times’ point about the inappropriate and unprofessional manner of this behavior should have been made. [Note from the Editor: Griffin Daily News is welcome to send a written response to this section of my article if it would like.]


Pike County Times is going to close on this article with a series of questions because there should be a lot of questions from readers after reading this huge amount of information and evidence that can be gathered by placing duplicate Open Records Requests with the City of Griffin. Some questions will be answered outright, and others will have to be answered by the reader after reading through this entire series of articles.

Questions that will be asked include whether or not SOP is being followed in an impartial manner by the Griffin PD with all news outlets. Why is this important? All news outlets must be able to work with the PD in order to obtain information from incidents that occur in the Griffin community. From obtaining the daily reports of events that go out from the PD each day to being able to interact with the PIO by phone and/or email, professional interaction is necessary for a good working relationship. After all, the policy of the Griffin Police Department (at that time anyway) was “to cooperate fully and impartially with the news media in their efforts to gather and disseminate factual information that is consistent with established procedures and where such activities do not subvert the ends of justice, infringe upon individual rights or privacy, or upon individual rights to a fair and impartial trial” as was stated in Section 29.1.1. This policy has since been rewritten and will be compared in a later article in this series.

Further questions include: Is the Atlanta media is being treated in a manner different than that of the local media? These requests for information—as compared to local media responses--showed a very quick response time for Atlanta media. This question will be asked and answered in the interview with Chief Yates in Part III of this series.

Is The GRIP being singled out for special treatment by Chief Yates and the Griffin Police Department? These emails show that there is a definite problem of some sort between The GRIP, Chief Yates, and the Griffin Police Department. Chief Yates will give his opinion on why he thinks that this is in the next article.

In closing, a single action does not constitute consistent behavior, but consistent behavior can be proven by actions that continue or get worse over time. The change of standard operating procedure that appears to directly target The GRIP, complaints from The GRIP over worsening behavior from the Chief and the PD including removal from the press email list and emailed list of daily reports from the PD, and disrespectful comments about The GRIP by Chief Yates to various people over the past several months show a pattern of behavior that is continuing to get worse.

Who has authority over an appointed department head in the City of Griffin? Are those in authority aware of the situation between The GRIP and Chief Yates? And has any of this behavior been addressed by those in authority? A search for “Chief Yates” on The GRIP’s website at https://the-grip.net/ will show a number of articles regarding Chief Yates and even his immediate supervisor, City Manager Kenny Smith that goes back more than one year with allegations of Open Records Act violations, release of Facebook messages, an Internal Affairs investigation, and a general tug and pull between the press and a government agency that must abide by its own standard of operation as well as state law regarding the release of information to the media.

Has similar behavior targeting a newspaper reporter been an issue in Chief Yates’ past? A simple web search will show that the answer to that question is yes. One article of note is from The Arkansas Times in 2014 entitled, “Mayor suspends Jonesboro police chief 30 days without pay for comments about reporter” that can be accessed by clicking here.

There are many questions that need to be asked in order to find out exactly what the press is dealing with in the City of Griffin. The answers to these questions will help to determine what is needed in order to ensure that any wrongdoing is punished, any “misunderstandings” are clarified, and procedures are put in place to ensure that current behavior does not continue.

Part III of this series was uploaded on Monday, October 21. It can be viewed by clicking here.