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Martinsville sheriff's deputy demoted
After pleading guilty to DWI in N.C.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Martinsville Sheriff’s Office’s chief deputy was demoted Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to a driving while impaired charge in North Carolina.
Laura Hopkins, who was a major, will continue working at the sheriff’s office, but she has been removed as chief deputy, said city Sheriff Steve Draper.
Draper said he has not decided what Hopkins’ new rank will be or who her successor as the second-in-command officer will be.
Other disciplinary actions against Hopkins are being taken, Draper said in a release. He declined to elaborate because it is a personnel issue.
However, he said in a phone interview that actions taken against her are “going to be pretty severe.”
Under Virginia law, disciplinary actions and similar measures pertaining to specific government employees are considered private.
Hopkins was placed on administrative leave after she was charged by the N.C. State Highway Patrol with driving while impaired Nov. 8, officials have said.
She was off duty and in her personal vehicle when she was stopped on U.S. 220 in Rockingham County, N.C., Draper has said.
According to Draper, Hopkins pleaded guilty Tuesday in Rockingham County District Court. She was sentenced to 24 hours of community service, and her privilege to drive in North Carolina was suspended for 12 months, he said.
She also was fined $100 and court costs, he said.
The city’s website shows that Hopkins has worked for the sheriff’s office since 1996 and has completed many criminal justice classes offered by local, state and federal sources. She has developed a Clean Start program for jail inmates as well as a program to help them earn GED certificates.
Before joining the sheriff’s office, she was the safety/security manager for Sara Lee Knit Products, the website shows.
The city sheriff’s office mostly is responsible for security in city courtrooms and at the city jail.
Draper said that dealing with Hopkins’ arrest has been “one of the most difficult issues” he has handled since he became sheriff in 1994.
Still, “we have to pay for the choices we make” in life that are not positive, he said.
Another Martinsville Sheriff’s Office deputy was arrested on a similar charge about eight years ago and found guilty, Draper has said. That person entered an employee assistance program and still works for the sheriff’s office, he added.
Sheriff’s deputies who are demoted, for whatever reason, are eligible to work their way back up the career ladder, Draper said.