Hearing Officer Rules 2 Fired Police Officers In Adam Tatum Case Get Their Jobs Back; Mayor "Extremely Disappointed" In Ruling

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An administrative law judge, in a 30-page opinion, has ruled that two Chattanooga Police officers who were fired for their part in injuries suffered by inmate Adam Tatum will get their jobs back.

Adam Cooley and Sean Emmer had appealed their terminations.

Mayor Andy Berke said, “I am extremely disappointed by the judge’s opinion today.  Any kind of misconduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the Chattanooga Police Department. We are currently reviewing the opinion and discussing our options with the city attorney.”

A Grand Jury earlier declined to sustain charges against the officers, and federal authorities, following an investigation, declined to charge them.

Officer Cooley was represented at the hearing by attorney Jonathon Guthrie and Officer Emmer was represented by attorneys Bryan Hoss and Stevie Phillips.

Attorney Hoss said, "With the decision, Judge Summers, who heard over 20 hours and three days worth of evidence, emphatically ruled against both the city of Chattanooga and the police chief.  Judge Summers totally rejected their claims, opinions and Chief Dodd's nearly five hours of testimony.

"These officers that night did nothing but patrol the streets of Chattanooga protecting our citizens and respond to a dangerous felon, high on cocaine, who was terrorizing Chattanooga citizens with a knife.  As Judge Summers noted, these officers have "unblemished" records and "promising careers."  It's about time the chief and the city realize that they've mishandled this case from day one and hurt two good police officers in the process." 

He added, "Neither Officer Emmer nor Officer Cooley arrived at the Salvation Army facility with the intent to beat and injure Mr. Tatum but were only using their training and experience to resolve a very difficult and unexpected situation as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Mr. Tatum chose - while on federal supervised release - to ingest cocaine, arm himself with a knife and assault a Chattanooga citizen. A 911 call to police cried out for emergency intervention to stop Tatum's rage. That is what Officers Emmer and Cooley did; and, today by this decision, the court has affirmed these officers' actions and restored them to their positions as Chattanooga Police officers with full back pay and benefits. The only misconduct in this sorry episode was that of Mr. Tatum and it was of his own making.  That is what the court found and that is what we proved in court."

Hearing Officer Kim Summers said that "Chattanooga did not show by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of the Grievants was appropriate."  

The incident happened June 12, 2012, at a Salvation Army halfway house on McCallie Avenue. Tatum was staying there after his release from federal prison.

He faced charges in connection with the altercation with the officers, but those charges were dismissed.

The incident was caught in a highly-publicized video.

Tatum is suing the city and the officers in City Court.  

Hearing officer Summers did not find fault with a neck hold by Officer Emmer and she said "the number of baton strikes may have been extraordinary,  so was the level of Mr. Tatum's resistance."

She noted that Tatum was initially armed with a knife.

The officer did not agree that the actions of the officers were in violation of the department's use of force policy.

She said the level of the use of force and the extent of the injuries of Tatum "were not ideal," but she said it "would not be an acceptable ending to this situation to ruin the lives and careers of two otherwise unblemished and promising police officers. . " 

Click here to read the judge's order.

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