City Council Approves $725,000 Settlement For White Police Officers Who Claimed Discrimination; 10 Officers To Share Payout

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The City Council on Tuesday night approved a $725,000 settlement in a lawsuit brought by 10 white officers in the Chattanooga Police Department who said they were unfairly passed over for promotions, while a black officer was elevated.

The Chancery Court lawsuit filed in 2006 was in the name of then-Lt. Bobby Rodgers. Others in the case who will share in the settlement are Scott Crider, Tim Commers, Scott Churchwell, Todd Royval, Bryan Moody Jr., David Woosley, Phil Headden, Rebecca Sue Shelton and Barry Vradenburgh.

Councilman Chris Anderson called it a fair settlement. He said he had participated in two recent mediation sessions on the case.

Steve Parks was the chief at the time who put in the hiring freeze, then lifted it temporarily after criticism that the city did not have enough high-ranking black officers.

Chief Parks had admitted in testimony at a hearing in February 2006 that Tracy Arnold, who was moved up from lieutenant, had just had an unfavorable job performance ruling from Internal Affairs.

Chief Parks said one factor was that promotion of more minorities "was something the community and the City Council were asking for and expecting."

The suit said their promotions were blocked after a freeze was put into place after the uproar about the lack of promotion of blacks into the administrative ranks.

Capt. Vivian Hixson said she had difficulties with the performance of then-Lt. Arnold and finally decided to take the unusual action of referring the matter to Internal Affairs.

Capt. Mark Rawlston, who was over Internal Affairs at the time and later was police chief, testified that it was alleged that then-Lt. Arnold was not keeping up with necessary paperwork, was not attending community meetings as required, and was not staying in contact with officers in his command.

"He was somewhat of an absentee supervisor," Capt. Rawlston said.

He said the Internal Affairs case against then-Lt. Arnold was sustained by investigators and by an administrative committee. But he said the action stopped at the level of Chief Parks.

Capt. Hixson said Chief Parks called her in and told her "he had made the decision he needed to promote Tracy." She said he asked her to consider withdrawing the complaint, and she complied.

Chief Parks said he had not known that Capt. Hixson had taken the action, and he said it was something that normally would be handled administratively, not by Internal Affairs.

Chief Parks said, if the action had been sustained, it would have blocked then-Lt. Arnold from being considered for promotion for two years, and he said that was too harsh.

He said he decided to promote then-Lt. Arnold since he was the only person on the list eligible for moving up to captain at the time.

Chief Parks said he was placed over training and communication. He said he has been doing "an adequate job" as captain.

Attorney Steve Dobson filed the suit and still represents the officers.

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