The arrest of former Chief Investigator, James F. Artis, of the Prince George’s County (MD) State’s Attorney’s Office for second-degree assault and fourth-degree sex offense comes as a surprise to those who formerly worked with him and those who are acquainted with him. Artis, a former police chief and military veteran, outwardly appeared to be a professional who desired to be respectful and appropriate in carrying out his duties. He always demonstrated a willingness to be helpful to his colleagues and considerate of their concerns. He was well known to many in professional circles in the Washington-Metropolitan area through his engagement in collaborative professional endeavors with various criminal justice entities throughout the region.
Artis’ service in a political office and, as an at-will employee, lends pause to ponder the possibility that such charges could possibly be a political set-up. Interestingly, he was immediately fired. In situations analogous to this one, customarily an employee is suspended-- rather than immediately fired-- until the criminal case is adjudicated in a court of law. Accordingly, individuals are innocent until proven guilty. However, in the case of Artis and under a new political administration, he suddenly faces serious accusations and charges and is dismissed from the office immediately thereafter.
The timing of these charges is worth noting. Artis was an employee of that office for a number of years and served under the previous political administration without issues. However, now, under the new political administration of Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, and one that is dominated by a leadership hierarchy of females in power, Artis finds himself the subject of serious criminal charges. Additionally, Alsobrooks, who, in the past year appears to have been engaging in a political house-cleaning process by dismissing a number of employees from the previous administration, is apparently trying to make her own political mark and likely setting her sights on aspiring to a higher political office in the future.
If Artis’ contention that he laid his hand on an employee’s shoulder to comfort her, with well meaning intentions for an apparent sad countenance that he claimed to have observed, then, perhaps, his action was misinterpreted by the employee. If it was something more, then the evolution of what actually occurred will be deciphered in a court of law with ensuing legal consequences for which Artis will pay a price.
Many of Artis’ colleagues are shocked by the news of his arrest. If these allegations turn out to be an employee misinterpreting a well-meaning action and blowing something out of proportion or if it turns out to be an underhanded political maneuver to oust Artis from his position in the office, then he has become the victim of a dysfunctional organization and a pathological process. If there is substance and truth to the actual charges, then it is a genuine tragedy for many—Artis himself, his family, those who worked with him, his friends, and those who always believed and had faith in him. Only time will tell.
***Karen L. Bune serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, where she teaches victimology. Ms. Bune is a consultant for the Training and Technical Assistance Center for the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U. S. Department of Justice. She is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on victim issues. Ms. Bune is Board Certified in Traumatic Stress and Domestic Violence, and she is a Fellow of The Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and the National Center for Crisis Management. She is a 2009 inductee in the Wakefield High School (Arlington, Va.) Hall of Fame. She received the “Chief’s Award 2009” from the Prince George’s County Maryland Police Chief. She received a 2011 Recognition of Service Certificate from Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. She received a 2011 Official Citation from The Maryland General Assembly congratulating her for extraordinary public service on behalf of domestic violence victims in Prince George’s County and the cause of justice throughout Maryland. She received the 2011 American University Alumni Recognition Award. Ms. Bune appears in the 2012 editions of Marquis’ “Who’s Who in the World, and Marquis' Who’s Who of American Women.