Make-A-Wish reviewing protocol after off-duty officer attempts to steal $1,500
WATCH: Surveillance video shows off-duty officer's attempt to steal from Make-A-Wish family
June 8, 2014 at 9:09 PM CDT - Updated July 20 at 9:23 PM
(WMC) - Following the arrest of an off-duty Memphis police officer accused of trying to steal from a nonprofit organization, WMC Action News 5 is taking a closer look at his history and how that agency is changing protocol to protect families.
Officer Ronald Harris has been with the Memphis Police Department for 12 years. On Monday, WMC Action News 5 got a look at his personnel and internal affairs files, which were more than 100 pages long with a lot of paper trail.
An airport police report says a Make-A-Wish family was traveling with a child under the age of 4 when an agency volunteer arrived at the airport. With her was a brown paper bag filled with five t-shirts and a $1,500 pre-paid Visa check card for the family.
Harris reportedly tried to take the bag twice; both times the Make-A-Wish father stopped him. But it took airport and Memphis Police several tries to get Harris in custody after he kicked open a squad car door and ran.
According to an affidavit, police eventually had to use a pair of leg-cuffs to get Harris under arrest.
Harris' personnel file contained several violations including damage to a squad car, radio violations, sick leave policy abuse, sleeping on the job, failure to get approval for additional employment, and failure to appear in court. Most resulted in a written reprimand or a short suspension.
Despite a lengthy list of violations, Harris had no history of violence or behavior like Saturday's; behavior that almost ended a wish trip before it began.
"A Make-A-Wish experience is a life altering experience in a positive way, and it's a wonderful healing time for the family to be together, to forget about the situation that brought them to wish in the first place," said Make-A-Wish Mid-South Director of Community Outreach Miranda Harbor.
Make-A-Wish Mid-South will not disclose where the family was headed, only that the child has a life threatening medical condition. They say the family made it to their destination safely and that the organization is working with airport officials to review their policy.
"People make poor choices, and we don't know the decisions that lead this person to do what they did. We are just fortunate that we have the Memphis Police Department and the airport," added Liz Nelson, Make-A-Wish President and CEO.
Harris is set to appear in court June 16, and has until that time to find an attorney.
Sunday night Police Director Toney Armstrong released the following statement:
"It is certainly disheartening and I am deeply saddened that an organization as wonderful as Make-A-Wish was victimized by someone sworn to protect, especially a member of the Memphis Police Department. Thankfully, no one sustained serious injuries. This officer is now facing serious charges for his criminal behavior. The Airport Police is to be commended for their quick response and professionalism."
Make-A-Wish Mid-South released this statement saying in part:
"We are cooperating with the investigation and immediately adjusted our protocols to ensure the safety of our volunteers and wish families..."
Harris has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of the investigation and is being held on $25,000 bond.
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