Maj. Jim Hodgson with the BCSO Administration Bureau wrote a letter to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission on Tuesday stating, “Upon further consideration in the matter of William Dallas Longwith and on behalf of Sheriff Jim Ruth, I wish to withdraw the request to have him decertified as a law enforcement officer.”
Longwith said Wednesday the sheriff’s actions were embarrassing and caused unnecessary stress on him and his family.
“Sheriff Ruth has been untruthful throughout this process and knows I have done nothing wrong,” Longwith said. “That is the reason he withdrew the decertification request.”
Longwith was fired from the Sheriff’s Office Jan. 4, based on complaints he allegedly wore boxer shorts (underwear) outside his home in August 2011 and again in December 2011.
The decertification hearing had been scheduled for this afternoon in Nashville.
In an email request for clarification of what was meant by further consideration, Hodgson replied, “Subsequent to our request for decertification, we were informally advised by reliable sources that the POST Commission has been reluctant to decertify officers discharged for disciplinary reasons, unless there was clear evidence of a criminal violation involved in the officer’s conduct.
“Since the internal investigation into complaints about Mr. Longwith’s objectionable conduct disclosed no clear criminal violation, I decided that it would likely be a waste of the time, energy and resources of the Sheriff’s Office, as well as the POST Commission, to press the decertification effort.”
Hodgson said being discharged by the employing law enforcement agency for disciplinary reasons is clearly one of the stated criteria for decertification.
“In fact, for years training administrators were frequently encouraged by POST representatives to file for decertification for officers so discharged, or for officers who resigned in the face of charges that could have resulted in termination,” he said. “Agencies have only a 10-day window following termination to file for decertification.”
According to Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Communications Director Christopher Garrett, two requests for decertification by local law enforcement agencies are on file with the POST Commission.
One Cleveland police officer accused of shoplifting was placed on the Dec. 20, 2010, agenda. The second request for decertification was Longwith.
“I was informed late yesterday [Tuesday] the police department has rescinded its order for decertification; the item is being removed from the agendas for this week’s meetings,” Garrett wrote via email.
No other requests or records were found for any officer to be decertified from the Sheriff’s Office in the past 30 years and no local officers have been decertified.
According to Garrett, Longwith’s certification will remain in good standing. Rules state that between five and 10 years without working full-time as a law enforcement officer, the officer must attend a three-week transition school within six months of employment. Officers with a break of longer than 10 years are required to attend a basic law enforcement academy.
According to the Jan. 4 termination letter from the Sheriff’s Office to Longwith, he was fired after a complaint was received in August 2011 from a neighbor alleging the deputy was “wearing nothing more than boxer shorts (underwear) while mowing your lawn. You were spoken to on this matter and you chose to ignore Sgt. James Dearth and continue to engage in the same manner which resulted in a second complaint from a different citizen in December 2011.”
Longwith said Wednesday he did wear casual clothing, including UT shorts and a T-shirt on his own personal property on various occasions, but maintains none of the clothing was underwear or anything that could be construed as inappropriate.
“This heavy-handed approach to dictate clothing that can be worn off-duty on your own property concerns me because it could affect other officers as summer approaches and casual wear is worn more frequently around swimming pools and such,” Longwith said. “Thanks to the many elected officials, friends and to my church for their support and prayers while I properly deal with these bogus allegations. Thanks to everyone who has supported me by writing letters and those that were willing to travel to Nashville to speak on my behalf.
“I hope this matter can be laid to rest, and the Sheriff’s Office ends their attacks on me. This issue has caused a loss of sleep and of course, additional monetary losses. I am confident that I will be cleared of any wrongdoing, and I thank everyone for their support.”
Hodgson said, “Mr. Longwith’s termination followed a repeat of objectionable behavior for which he had been previously warned by his sergeant. For Mr. Longwith to state that his former supervisor found no policy violation involved, contradicts the clear existence of the earlier warning.
“His assertion that he was fully clothed is contrary to statements made by and photographs taken by the complainants in this matter. It was my concern about Mr. Longwith’s refusal to accept responsibility for his conduct that prompted me to recommend the request for decertification.
“We are confident that our discharge of Mr. Longwith was fully justified and will withstand legal challenge, and that we can successfully refute any related claims made by Mr. Longwith which are contrary to the facts.”
Longwith retained Chattanooga attorney Gerald Tidwell to study Longwith’s legal options.