Elijah Gardner is a petty criminal, a two-bit punk of the sort who needlessly complicate the lives of law-abiding citizens.
That doesn't mean he deserves to get roughed up by a cop.
That's apparently what happened Feb. 18, when Columbia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Steve Morris says Deputy Michael John Thompson, who worked at the county's Detention Center for four years, used excessive force against Gardner.
The inmate, being held on a forgery charge, filed a complaint against Thompson for use of excessive force. The sheriff's office investigated, determined the complaint was valid and fired Thompson - and then promptly arrested him on a charge of simple battery and released on bond.
Embarrassing? You bet. How easy would it have been for the Sheriff's Office to simply ignore Gardner's complaint? Who would believe - who would want to believe - the words of a man already in jail for lying on paper? Especially when it's his word against that of a law-enforcement officer?
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office didn't want to believe it, either. But that didn't stop its investigators from giving the case a thorough review. That's why Thompson no longer has a job, and could soon have a criminal record himself.
"This is case in point that Sheriff Clay Whittle will apply the law equally to all people, all parties concerned, regardless of who it is," Capt. Morris says.
Law-abiding citizens would rather not have to put up with petty crooks like Elijah Gardner. Some may even be willing to look the other way when cops rough them up.
But an orderly society depends on the rule of law, and those laws apply to everyone - including, and especially, the cops who enforce them.
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