The latest incident involves deputy Darrin G. Sorrell, 32, of rural Thayer, who was charged Oct. 12 in Oregon County Circuit Court with felony stealing by coercion.
Two days later, Oregon County Sheriff George Underwood issued a public apology for the two officer's "grave indiscretions." (See Underwood's statement at the end of this article.)
"This is the second that I've had this year," Underwood said of Sorrell's felony arrest. "It just kind of takes the wind out of your sails, but you have to keep your chin up and keep going."
Sorrell has been with the department on and off since 2004. He started as a dispatcher, left for a time to work for Thayer Police Department, and then returned as a deputy.
Sorrell's arrest puts the department down to two full-time road deputies and Chief Deputy Eric King to cover 800 square miles. The department uses reserve officers if available.
"Most reserve officers have full-time jobs, so scheduling is difficult," Underwood said.
Records indicate Sorrell threatened an Oregon County woman with an investigation of her for distributing marijuana if she did not pay him money.
A probable cause statement filed by Oregon County Prosecutor Fred O'Neill indicates the woman paid Sorrell two checks, totaling $5,800, "to make the investigation go away."
Sorrell allegedly deposited one check into his personal bank account and cashed the other, keeping the money at his Thayer home.
Oregon County Court records indicate Sorrell was ordered in August to repay Capital One Bank in a breach of contract suit. Sorrell is to repay $5809.24 in principal, $587.94 in interest and $871.39 for attorney fees, for a total of $7268.57 plus court costs. The judgement is to bear interest of almost 20 percent per annum.
Sorrell is free on $10,000 bond. He has a bond hearing set for Oct. 26, before Oregon County Circuit Judge Harvey Allen.
The Missouri Highway Patrol and Thayer Police Department assisted in the investigation.
The earlier Oregon County case involved the arrest of former deputy Dophes "Gene" Barton, 47, of rural Alton in January. Barton was a 15-year-veteran of law enforcement and son of a former Alton Police chief.
Barton was charged in Oregon County with eight felony counts of burglary and theft totaling about $15,000 after allegedly selling stolen property to an undercover officer.
Barton's case has been moved to Poplar Bluff in Butler County. Judge Michael Martin Pritchett is set to hear a motion hearing on the case Nov. 1.
Underwood said he was involved in both investigations, calling in the Highway Patrol early on in Barton's case. Sorrell's case came to light when the victim's family notified the drug task force.
"If we've got a dirty officer, we have to get them out of here," Underwood said. "I don't want anyone to think we're hiding anything."
Oregon County Sheriff George Underwood released the following statement to the public:
"As sheriff of Oregon County, I feel I need to address the citizens of this county regarding recent events involving employees of the sheriff's department.
"As you know, two officers have been arrested and are awaiting prosecution for violating Missouri state law. Due to the fact both men are awaiting prosecution, I cannot disclose all the details regarding the investigation at the present time.
"Citizens of Oregon County: I would like to apologize for these grave indiscretions. I wish to assure each of you, as your sheriff, I will do everything in my power to assist in prosecution of these former officers. I would like to thank the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Missouri South Central Drug Task Force for all their help and assistance in the investigations of these officers.
"While these incidences have been hard on the sheriff's office, we are committed to protect and serve the citizens of Oregon County by any means necessary.
"If you have any questions concerning these issues, please call 417-778-6611. Thank you for your continued support for the Oregon County Sheriff's Department."