Crime & Courts

Columbia police officer rehired after child sexual abuse charge is dismissed

Following a felony accusation and three years of legal proceedings, a Columbia police officer is back at the department after the criminal charge was dropped and his record expunged.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook hired Jamie Lee Rogers Sr. to be part of the Columbia Police Department again.

In 2016, Rogers was fired from the department after being accused of sexual assault of a child.

Rogers initially began working at the Columbia Police Department in March 2012 and, at the time of his firing, was assigned to patrol north Columbia.

In an arrest warrant, he was accused of assaulting a child in Lexington County between May and August 2013.

In November 2016, after Lexington County Sheriff’s Department investigators learned of the accusation, Rogers was arrested and Holbrook fired him immediately.

Little information about legal proceedings in Rogers’ case was known or reported, but according to law enforcement records, Rogers’ charge was recently dropped and expunged from his criminal record. A background check shows he has no other criminal charges.

Rogers could not be reached for comment.

The “charges were dropped and the case was dismissed after an investigation by” the Lexington sheriff’s department, said Jennifer Timmons, spokesperson for the Columbia Police Department.

Rogers underwent hiring protocol and passed a background check before coming back to the department, according to Timmons.

The Lexington sheriff’s department said it has no records of the charge against Rogers.

The State reached out to the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which prosecutes cases in Lexington County, but prosecutors did not respond to questions about Rogers’ case.

Attorney Johnny Evans, who worked in law enforcement for almost two decades, said he often defends police officers accused of crimes. He was not Rogers’ attorney, but in general, “It’s always hard to defend police officers because they’re held to a higher standard.”

Police must have “probable cause” to arrest someone. Probable cause does not require proven facts, but merely reasons to believe an accusation could be true. Having charges dropped means that investigators lacked evidence to substantiate the probable cause, according to Evans.

Even if charges are dropped, criminal accusations “tend to hurt you for the rest of your life whether you’re a cop or not.”

To mitigate that impact, anyone who has criminal charges dismissed has a right to clear their record through the expungement process, Evans said.

After Rogers’ charge was dropped, the Columbia Police Department hired him back in July 2019, his law enforcement record shows.

The next month, Columbia’s deputy chief, Melron Kelly, signed off on a form that changed the reason for Rogers’ termination three years earlier from a firing because of a criminal charge to a routine separation. The form was submitted to the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, the state agency responsible for licensing police officers.

Rogers and the Columbia Police Department requested that his law enforcement license be reinstated by the academy.

After a Sept. 16 criminal justice academy hearing, the agency granted Rogers’ request.

Because Rogers wasn’t an officer for about three years, he will have to go through special training to get his law enforcement certification.

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David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.