BCSO demotes one deputy and suspends second

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 6/17/18

One Bradley County Sheriff's Office deputy was demoted and another was suspended for 10 days following a recent Internal Affairs investigation. The disciplinary action resulted from the investigation into a complaint following an April 8 incident.

Information regarding the investigation was obtained through a records request submitted by the Cleveland Daily Banner and fulfilled through the Bradley County Attorney's Office.

According to BCSO Chief Deputy James Bradford, part of the disciplinary action for Deputy Dale Liner and former Lt. Tom Wasson was to go through Fourth Amendment training “and analyzing what happened and seeing how that violated their rights when looking at the findings of the IA report.”

Bradford added the Training Division is implementing additional training for all deputies.

The complaint was related to an April 8 incident in which a man was detained and the cell phone he was using to record deputies making a traffic stop was taken away. The complainant, Jamichael Parks, was using a cell phone to record video of a traffic stop involving family members. He was ordered by Liner to stop filming and give him the phone. Parks was taken into custody and handcuffed, as well as threatened with arrest for disorderly. He was later released and not charged; no one involved in the traffic stop was charged, either.

The investigation reviewed alleged departmental violations for each deputy involved in the complaint and recommended dispositions based on the findings. During the course of the investigation, the complainant, seven BCSO personnel, and three others were interviewed. 

If an allegation is sustained, that means investigators found the accused employees committed all or part of the alleged acts of misconduct. If an allegation is not sustained, that means the investigators produced insufficient information to prove clearly or to disprove the allegations.

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BCSO demotes one deputy and suspends second

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One Bradley County Sheriff’s Office deputy was demoted and another was suspended for 10 days following a recent Internal Affairs investigation. The disciplinary action resulted from the investigation into a complaint following an April 8 incident.

Information regarding the investigation was obtained through a records request submitted by the Cleveland Daily Banner and fulfilled through the Bradley County Attorney’s Office.

According to BCSO Chief Deputy James Bradford, part of the disciplinary action for Deputy Dale Liner and former Lt. Tom Wasson was to go through Fourth Amendment training “and analyzing what happened and seeing how that violated their rights when looking at the findings of the IA report.”

Bradford added the Training Division is implementing additional training for all deputies.

The complaint was related to an April 8 incident in which a man was detained and the cellphone he was using to record deputies making a traffic stop was taken away.

The complainant, Jamichael Parks, was using a cellphone to record video of a traffic stop involving family members. He was ordered by Liner to stop filming and give him the phone. Parks was taken into custody and handcuffed, as well as threatened with arrest for disorderly. He was later released and not charged; no one involved in the traffic stop was charged.

The investigation reviewed alleged departmental violations for each deputy involved in the complaint and recommended dispositions based on the findings. During the course of the investigation, the complainant, seven BCSO personnel and three others were interviewed. 

If an allegation is sustained, that means investigators found the accused employees committed all or part of the alleged acts of misconduct. If an allegation is not sustained, that means the investigators produced insufficient information to prove clearly or to disprove the allegations.

Deputy Dale Liner

The investigation sustained the alleged violation of the Officer’s Canon of Ethics, Article 7: Conduct in Arresting and Dealing with Law Violators.

“From the witness statements, videos, and audio provided to investigators to review, this investigation has the conclusion that Deputy Liner placed the complainant into custody without due regard for the law or rights of the citizen and exceeded limitations in detaining the complainant,” the report stated.

In coming to the conclusion to sustain the complaint, investigators had to answer two questions:

• Was there a crime committed by the complainant to justify being taken into custody?

According to the IA report, there is no evidence to conclude that Jamichael Parks committed a criminal offense.

• Was the complainant a part of the traffic stop investigation thus justifying detainment by Deputy Liner?

The IA report states that while Parks stated he never walked up into the traffic stop, “video shows that he did in fact walk up and stand next to Deputy Liner and the occupants of the vehicle that was stopped. Once told to leave, Jamichael then obeyed and left.” The report also states that “no witnesses gave statements that indicated Jamichael was ever a part of the traffic stop.”

In addition, the investigation sustained the complaint that Liner used profanity during the incident. Liner was given a 10-day suspension based on the investigation’s findings.

The IA report noted one policy violation related to use of in-car audio/video was not sustained. BCSO policy states that “At the beginning of each shift, a Deputy will property install the wireless audio transmitter on the uniform so that it is easily accessible. Any time a video recording is taking place, the wireless audio transmitter shall be activated.”

“Investigation revealed that Deputy Liner’s audio was not turned on during this incident,” the report stated. This policy violation was not part of the original complaint but was found during the investigation of other violations. 

According to the report, the investigation revealed  Liner’s audio was not turned on during the April 8 incident. Liner reportedly told investigators the battery to his audio recorder does not charge properly “and therefore he has limited power. He stated that he has advised his shift supervisor of the problem and has informed members of the traffic team, who are responsible for the repair of the equipment, about the problem.”

The report noted the current process “has no tracking measures, therefore, it can not be confirmed or denied that Deputy Liner followed policy by reporting his malfunctioning audio device. The complaint is not sustained.”

Lt. Tom Wasson

The report sustained a policy violation of conduct unbecoming an officer.

“This policy violation was not a part of the original complaint and was discovered during the investigation,” the report stated. “Lt. Tom Wasson was present on scene when Jamichael Parks was taken into custody. During that time, Lt. Wasson’s audio recorder recorded him making statements to civilians that were not professional and reflected poorly on the Bradley County Sheriff’ Office. Lt. Wasson’s statements showed a lack of knowledge concerning rights to search and seizure or legal process.”

In addition, Wasson made reference to a “supposed court ruling in the 6th district court of appeals that makes it illegal to film law enforcement,” the report stated. “There is no such ruling that could be found in the 6th district and no legal professionals we talked to knew of any such ruling.

“For a member of the public to hear Lt. Wasson’s statements would lead them to believe that they must respect law enforcement or go to jail,” the report stated. “This is not a healthy perception for the citizens of Bradley County to have if the Sheriff’s office wishes to improve public relations.”

On May 19, BCSO Chief Deputy James Bradford issued a written reprimand to Wasson “as a corrective action regarding the findings of the Internal Affairs investigation.”

The reprimand includes notice to Wasson that he had been demoted from patrol lieutenant to patrol sergeant. “Additionally, you will attend classes explaining in detail the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the reprimand stated.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against illegal search and seizure.

The reprimand also stated the classes shall be completed no later than June 30, 2018 “to gain awareness and understanding in order to prevent from violating a person’s constitutional rights from happening in the future.”

“Upon completion of the classes, a detailed written report shall be permitted by you to the Training Division explaining how your actions violated Jamichael Parks’ constitutional rights,” the reprimand stated. “The written report should be submitted to Lt. Julie Quinn no later than July 8, 2018.”

On May 21, Wasson gave notice of his plan to appeal the written reprimand and reduction of rank. He also requested a copy of the Internal Affairs investigation and a copy of the actions taken against Deputy Dale Liner. 

On May 22, Sheriff Eric Watson issued notice to Wasson upholding the disciplinary measures.

“I have received your appeal … and I have reviewed it,” Watson’s letter stated. “I also thoroughly reviewed the IA Investigation report. After careful consideration of the facts surrounding the Jamichael Parks incident, I have come to the following conclusion, Chief Deputy Bradford’s assessment of the situation was correct and the punitive actions were appropriate.”

Deputy Robert Jones

Jones was one of the deputies who responded to the April 8 incident. The IA investigation found that Jones was not able to provide either a video or audio recording of the incident being investigated because of equipment issues.

“At this time, the traffic team is working on creating a better process for which deputies can submit issues with the video/audio system,” the report stated. “The current process has no tracing measures; therefore, it cannot be confirmed or denied that Deputy Jones followed policy by reporting his malfunctioning camera system or that he intentionally removed the SD card to disable it. The complaint is not sustained.”

The report also noted  Jones “was the one who took the phone from Jamichael Parks” and “upon getting the phone from Mr. Parks, he stopped the video that was being recorded, but did not delete it from the phone. He advised  a few seconds later he realized that he had accidentally started a new recording taking a picture of the sky. Deputy Jones advised  he deleted those two files from the phone but not the video taken by Jamichael Parks.”

Investigators made several calls to the phone’s owner, Terrell Parks, but were unsuccessful in contacting him.

“At this point, there is not enough to say that Deputy Jones committed any policy violation by deleting the video made by Jamichael Parks,” the report stated.

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