News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 23, 2009
HARLEM, Ga.---Harlem's Public Safety Chief has resigned -- one day after admitting to shoplifting at the Wal-Mart in Evans. Store security caught Charles Jerry Baldwin with items totaling less than $25.00
The people of Harlem all had just about the same reaction -- shock as they heard about their Public Safety Chief admitting to a crime.
Jerry Baldwin told a deputy after he was caught shoplifting yesterday, quote "I did have the money, it was just a stupid thing i did," according to the incident report.
Jerry Baldwin finding himself on the other side of the law as he admits to shoplifting from the Wal-Mart in Evans.
"He came in this morning and presented his letter of resignation -- effective immediately," says Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper.
Resigning just one day after store security caught him stealing four packs of gum, two bottles of tarter sauce, two packs of crystal light, and some grape jam.
According to the report, store security saw Baldwin putting some things in his pocket and then going up to pay for the things in his cart, but not the things in his pockets. So when he walked out the front doors, they caught him red handed.
"I'm totally surprised by it," says Mayor Culpepper.
City leaders -- not the only ones caught off guard by all this.
"Very surprised, very surprised," says concerned citizen Joe Eddie Thomas.
"Nothing shocks me in today's world. It never ends," says Bob Adams who lives in Harlem. "I just believe there's something wrong. I don't believe it," adds Thomas.
But others say this is a perfect example a badge shouldn't be a free pass to do whatever you want. "Sometimes they feel like -- they're in power they can do that kind of stuff and get away with it. 'it's just something petty, whats it matter, I'm the Chief of Police.'" says Martin Salazar who agrees with the resignation.
One who had a clean record -- until now. He's been with the force since November of 2001. So officers say, this comes as a complete shock. Even the mayor is baffled. "It does naturally catch us off guard and it will be something we'll have to react to," says Mayor Culpepper.
Wal-Mart did not press charges and Baldwin was not arrested, but they did file a trespassing notice against him so he can not return to the store.
I tried to contact former Chief Baldwin but he did not return my phone calls.
City Administrator Jean Dove says Assistant Chief Chuck Meadows will take over Baldwin's post for now. But they will be taking applications to find a permanent replacement.