By Stan Welch
Newly hired Williamston Police Officer Jesse Harris, who was recently fired by the Seneca Police Department (SPD), adamantly denies the allegations of sexual harassment which led to his firing earlier this month.
In fact, he denies that those allegations are even the reason for his firing at all. The process allegedly began sometime last summer, which is when Harris allegedly made an improper remark to a female officer in the SPD dispatch room. Similar charges were also reportedly made against two other officers at the time.
In December, several months later, Harris was told about the complaint which was not formally lodged until late November or early December. Harris denied the allegations, but on the following Monday, he provided a formal statement to the SPD investigator conducting the internal investigation into the allegations. On Wednesday, he was told he would be given a polygraph.
According to Harris, it was during the polygraph that a problem arose. According to Harris, a back injury which he says is reflected in his medical records, caused an involuntary cervical spasm in his back which affected his physical response to the polygraph, which measures various electrical and chemical responses to questioning.
Harris says the polygraph operator refused to complete the test because of his inability to interpret the responses, and declared the results to be inconclusive. During the subsequent contentious discussion of the matter with the SPD Chief, Harris says the issue transformed from a matter of the allegations to a question of his fitness to perform his duties due to his back problems.
“I told them that I had properly informed my supervisors of the condition and that I had not missed a single day of work because of it. I asked to be given a physical by the doctor of their choice, but I was informed I had become a ’liability’ and that I was terminated.”
Harris said that when he applied for unemployment benefits prior to his hiring at Williamston, the SC Workforce officials who reviewed his case found that the allegations of sexual harassment were unsupported and his claim was allowed. Shortly after that he found work in Williamston.
Williamston Police Department (WPD) Chief Jay Grubbs told The Journal that Harris was completely forthcoming about his termination when he applied for the job with the WPD. “He volunteered the information and provided documentation to support his claims. We vetted him thoroughly and found no reason to deny him employment with our department. He has more than thirty years experience, and an impressive history in terms of training and performance.”
Grubbs went on to say that his department’s vetting of prospective officers is more thorough than many other agencies. “The people of Williamston deserve the very best officers we can hire, and that is what we try to give them.”