Photo Above: Officer Taylor Saulters with his family
In what has become a sad continuance of police leaders failing to lead, another victim of cowards that refuse to bring honesty to the public has emerged.
Officer Taylor Saulters has been an Athens-Clarke County (GA) Police Officer for 15 months. He is 23 years old, with a family and his dream was to be a police officer in Special Operations. He lived with his dream as a kid, his father also wears the badge.
Taylor was following his dreams on Friday evening doing what he thought would help get him into a tactical unit. Assigned to a special detail, in a high crime area, Taylor was out trying to catch known wanted felons and he found Timmy Patmon. Patmon, wanted for a felony probation violation, took off running when Taylor’s partner made contact with him.
Activating his lights and siren, Saulters drove to the area with the last radio contact of the officer and suspect. Upon seeing Patmon, with an officer chasing, Taylor attempted to block the path of him using his patrol vehicle, in an effort to contain his movement in the area. While doing this he went over a curb and unknown to him, his driver side tire exploded away from the rim.
Patmon continued to run and at one point, he was running in the lane of traffic. Saulters drove to the oncoming lane and attempted to drive past the fleeing felon in an effort to contain him when Patmon crosses lanes and struck the police car.
He fell to the ground where he resisted arrest and was eventually taken into custody. He had minor bruises and was reportedly joking with the jail staff later in the evening.
Frankly, that should have been the last anyone knew about this incident.
Then again, it’s 2018 and whenever a police officer actually does police work and especially if that work involves a minority suspect, the protests and media frenzy begins. There is no investigation; no questions; no facts to be sought. There is nothing but vitriol hate spewed at Law Enforcement and this is why I have been advocating for Courageous Leaders for some time.
It is during these incidents where emotions over take facts and common sense is forgotten. That was exactly my fear when I heard that Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Scott Freeman fired Taylor 21 hours after the incident.
You heard that right.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation had not yet completed their investigation of the incident and on a Saturday, the dreams of Officer Taylor Saulters were shattered.
There should be many questions that come to your mind thus far and if you watched the above video, it’s obvious this wasn’t an intentional act. It would be impossible for all of those questions to be answered in a mere 21 hours.
In fact, Chief Freeman told Taylor, just before he fired him that “I believe with every fiber of my being that you did not intend to run him down.”
If Taylor said it wasn’t his intention, Chief Freeman believes the same and the video clearly shows the suspect running into the path of the patrol car, then why is a 23 year old family man without a job right now?
It is because Law Enforcement is full of cowardly leaders, not willing to serve others while protecting their most important asset, themselves.
The Courageous Leadership Institute calls it the “Art of Self Preservation” and I’ve seen it more times than I care to recount.
Whether Chief Freeman wants to admit it or not, the quick termination of a young, motivated officer was done for one reason. To direct the media and activists to Taylor and to shield himself from scrutiny.
After all, Taylor was still a probationary employee. That action follows in the footsteps of another cowardly leader that terminated the annual contract of Stacy Ettel. After all, it’s the easy approach, which is exactly why leadership must be courageous.
It’s not always easy.
Taylor Saulters now sits at home with a wife and baby. The national news is rearing back and making him the next poster officer for police racism and he is worried about being criminally charged. A young man’s dreams are shattered and I refuse to let his story go untold.
There was another path. Chief Freeman could have told the public what he told Taylor. That he knew his actions were not intentional. Chief Freeman could have actually launched an investigation, which takes longer than a few hours, and investigated the evidence. There are experts available that can determine the direction of the car versus the suspect. There are investigators still working on the incident that have yet to come to a conclusion.
Time bears facts and rushing to judgment only answers to emotions.
We will never know what the outcome would have been if Taylor Saulters would have had a leader with courage. Someone willing to answer the tough questions, make the tough decisions and do the right thing, even when the world is screaming for immediate justice.
My intention is to not defend a bad cop. Taylor Saulters is not a bad cop. My intention is not to sling arrows at Chief Freeman. Like other Chief jobs, it’s one of the most difficult in the nation but it comes with tremendous responsibility. That responsibility lies with taking care of the public as well as the officers that risk their lives for that public.
A wanted felon created this incident and while cop haters can sit back in their recliner and criticize the tactics, they will never actually do what Officer Taylor Saulters dedicated the last few years of his life to.
Being a police officer.
I thank him for that and I pray that a Courageous Leader sees this incident from a factual viewpoint and give Taylor the chance to fulfill his dreams.
Travis Yates is a writer and editor at Law Officer. An ILEETA Trainer of the Year, his Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates is a current Doctoral Student in Strategic Leadership and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for Law Officer (www.lawofficer.com) and the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute (www.courageousleader.org), providing leadership consulting and training to law enforcement around the world.