ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia sheriff was arrested after he exposed himself to a police officer in an Atlanta park and then led the officer on a foot chase, according to a police report.
DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann, 54, faces charges of indecency and obstruction of an officer.
Attempts by The Associated Press on Monday to reach Mann at phone numbers listed for him were unsuccessful, and the sheriff's office did not return phone messages seeking comment. Mann told WSB-TV that the arrest was a misunderstanding and that he would clear his name.
An Atlanta police officer patrolling Piedmont Park spotted Mann around 11 p.m. Saturday in an area "known for sexual acts after dark," the report says.
Mann was rubbing his genitals through his pants and then exposed his genitals and masturbated as he walked toward the officer, the report says. The officer stood next to a tree to hide the reflective stripe on his uniform and allowed Mann to get within 10 feet (3 meters) of him before shining his flashlight on him.
Mann immediately ran away with the officer running behind him yelling, "Police! Stop!" Mann ran out of the park and ran across a street, through traffic, to get away from the officer, who chose not to run into traffic but was still able to keep sight of the sheriff, the report says.
After turning onto a side street, Mann stopped to tie his shoes and the officer was able to get within 15 feet (5 meters) of him before Mann noticed him and started running again, the report says. After they'd covered about a quarter of a mile (.4 kilometers) and Mann noticed the officer was catching up, he stopped running and started following the officer's commands, the report says. Mann asked to speak to a supervisor.
The officer found two condoms in Mann's pocket when he searched the sheriff after they walked back to the officer's patrol car, the report says.
Mann was re-elected as DeKalb sheriff in 2016, two years after winning a special election to replace Thomas Brown, who resigned to run for Congress in 2014.
DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester called the allegations shocking and embarrassing. She said she'd be happy if the sheriff's claim of a misunderstanding is true but said that if the allegations are factual, Mann would have a lot of challenges continuing to lead his department.
While the county commission only has budgetary oversight over the elected sheriff and can't remove him from office, the governor or the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council could take action, Georgia Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Terry Norris said.
Georgia law allows the governor to convene a panel consisting of two sheriffs and the state attorney general to investigate and to recommend whether a sheriff facing criminal or ethics charges should be suspended pending the outcome. A spokeswoman for Gov. Nathan Deal did not immediately respond to an email Monday asking whether the governor would consider doing that.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which certifies law enforcement officers in the state, has opened an investigation, as it does whenever an officer faces criminal charges, said spokesman Ryan Powell. A sheriff must have certification to hold office and can continue to serve if placed on probation by the council, but not if the council suspends or revokes certification, Powell said.
"Certainly politically, and possibly legally, this could have pretty significant implications on the sheriff in DeKalb," Norris said. "If those charges are accurate, that behavior is certainly unbecoming to anyone and that includes the sheriff or any other officer."