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I-TEAM: A look into Investigator Ridley's personnel files

Investigator Cecil Ridley's ethics were a hot button issue on social media following his death. (Source: WRDW)
Investigator Cecil Ridley's ethics were a hot button issue on social media following his death. (Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Dec. 12, 2019 at 1:34 PM EST
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Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's been nearly one month since the

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Alvin Hestor Jr. was charged with the murder of Ridley and he awaits trial without bond. Meanwhile, as the GBI's investigation into Investigator Ridley's death is ongoing, many across Augusta have asked News 12 questions. Questions both about the case and the narcotics officer's background.

News 12 heard from viewers through emails, calls, and social media asking for more transparency.

So first, the information we obtained will not provide clarity on what happened the day he died and we won't know a lot of information because of the ongoing investigation. Additionally, the open investigation means store security video and police body camera footage won't be released to the media right now.

Our I-team reviewed personnel documents in which we obtained through an Open Records Request from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

In them, Investigator Ridley's file shows a list of accomplishments. From his promotion to Senior Investigator in 2018, to his annual performance report back in 2015. This report was the only detailed annual review among the files we received. It describes an officer who is 'dedicated,' carries a 'high work load,' and has 'extensive knowledge of the local drug trade.'

Ridley's file also reveals a pattern of praise from supervisors. For example, in May 2013 Sheriff Roundtree thanks Ridley for his assistance with busting a drug dealer. Ridley's confidential informant helped set up a meeting with the dealer which led to the dealer's arrest, according to the letter.

In October 2013, a letter from Roundtree credits Ridley for a sex-trafficking bust. The sheriff wrote he saved two women from sexual servitude in a motel on Boy Scout Road.

And in 2014, a letter recognized his contribution to a cocaine bust-- $33,000 worth.

Following this, in 2016, the Assistant District Attorney thanked narcotics investigators, Ridley included, whose investigation helped lead to a conviction of drug-dealer well-known for selling in Downtown Augusta.

This was all during Ridley's second employment with the sheriff's office. The first time he was employed, he ended up resigning in 2007. Although the reason is unclear, our I-team found an employee Separation Notice. A question on it asks, "Would you rehire," the city marked 'no.'

Officials have not confirmed why but we do know, even in his first tenure with RCSO he got certificates and awards under two separate sheriffs-- both Ronald Strength and Charles Webster.

But back to the resignation forms, they reveal Ridley resigned 'in lieu of dismissal.' The form notes, "See attached disciplinary reports." But, based off the files our I-team received, there are no attached reports.

The sheriff's office got back to us this evening responding to the absence of those reports:
Per policy disciplinary forms are purged from personnel folder after one year but they are maintained in an employee’s IA file. However, because he left in 2007 his IA record was purged. Ridley was re-hired in 2013 he has had no disciplinary actions since his re-hire date.

Two years after Ridley left RCSO-- his Georgia employment profile lists an investigation in December 2009. But the employment record only discloses the case was complete, closed, and no action was taken against him.

Fast forward to 2013, the veteran officer gets re-hired. And his file, with the exception of a few car crashes where he was found at-fault during 1995,1997,and 2005--says he is cleared.

Our I-team did find at least two federal complaints against the late investigator but they were more than a decade-old and they were dismissed.

As far as the day investigator Ridley died, the GBI is still investigating those details.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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