The headline in the local newspaper in Carroll County (AR) reads, “Wrong Men Pay For Sheriff’s Mistake.” As the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute and Editor In Chief here at Law Officer, I often get sent articles that depict bad police leaders. After 25 years in the profession, I would say that nothing surprises me anymore but I know better.
Carroll County Sheriff Randy Mayfield did not run for a third term after managing just four years in office but he doesn’t leave until December 31st and he wasn’t going to leave quietly. It started on October 2, 2018, when Mayfield asked two staff members to meet. In that meeting, Sheriff Mayfield used a homosexual slur towards another elected county official, Justice of the Peace Lamont Richie. I won’t repeat the word here but let me just say there are some words that a leader should never recover from and this was one.
Of course the rumors started and it wasn’t long before Richie confronted the Sheriff on what was said. Mayfield denied it for weeks but there is a problem for cowardly leaders in 2018 and that problem often lies with technology. Scott Loftis was the managing editor for the local paper and he contacted Major George Frye in regards to an open record request on any video or audio that may have captured the meeting.
While the meeting room did not have audio, the hallway outside the room did and caught the conversation and the word. What happens next is often what I refer to in our Courageous Leadership Seminar as the “Art of Self Preservation.”
The leader has a choice.
They can either admit their mistake (which should have happened when he was confronted) or they can protect themselves at all costs.
Can you guess which way Sheriff Mayfield went?
According to Loftis, “the day this newspaper obtained video footage from a security camera outside the meeting room at the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office where Mayfield made the asinine remarks. Mayfield issued a written apology, describing the whole thing as a “momentary loss of professionalism.” He didn’t apologize for lying about it, instead claiming not to remember making the remarks because in his words “that is not my belief or character.”
If it stopped there, maybe Mayfield makes it to December 31st without me writing anything about him but there is a pattern I have seen with cowardly leaders….the kind that call people horrendous names and then lie about it.
The pattern is they will continue to destroy others in an attempt to protect themselves and that is exactly what happened to Major George Frye. Frye’s crime was that he answered a phone call from a reporter and then followed the law by giving the reporter the audio per the Freedom of Information Act request.
That type of moral obligation and honesty is dangerous to a cowardly leader and then the unthinkable happened. Frye reached out to Richie privately “disavowing and condemning the mindset” that came from Mayfield’s comments.
That came out not because Frye said anything but Richie resigned on October 30th, citing the comments made as part of the reason and in his resignation letter he mentioned what Frye did for him, which I happen to think is courageous and right and we need more of it.
Like I said, that is dangerous to a cowardly leader.
According to Loftis, “Frye could have covered for the sheriff. He could have made the damning video go away. He could have chosen not to be kind to Richie. Instead, he followed the law, he did his job and he was a decent human being.”
And for that, Frye must pay.
Sheriff Mayfield promptly fired Major Frye on his next day at work.
That was it. A distinguished career culminating in an upper management position wiped away by a coward and I wish I could say it was an isolated incident but it isn’t.
I have seen hundreds of stories just like this in 2018 alone and it has me changing my mind on something. I have come to the conclusion that law enforcement leadership is so bad, we must give our heroes behind the badge due process rights.
American Sheriffs will get mad at me but if they were truly leaders they would agree. It is not right or fair to just ruin someone just because you want to. I know many Sheriffs and thank God most are not like Mayfield. Most treat others with respect and dignity and they would never fire someone without cause.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Sheriffs, especially new Sheriffs should select their command staff. No one would expect the CEO of Microsoft to not have a say in upper management but firing good men and women without cause is not acceptable.
Major George Frye is one of the good ones and one thing I have figured out in my career is that honest, hard-working cops scare cowardly leaders and it is that reason that due process must be implemented for every hero behind the badge.
Travis Yates is the founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute. Find out how to become a Courageous Leader here.
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