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.



Family Makes Treasure Trove Of Early Chattanooga Photographs Available For Book; Stokes Collection Has Been Passed Down To Descendants

A treasure trove of Chattanooga photographs that have been passed down in the Stokes family for generations has now been assembled in an upcoming book. Chattanooga Around The Turn Of The Century: The Remarkable Stokes Collection will be published by Chattanoogan.com. Pre-orders are now being taken for the book, which includes over 700 photos on large-size pages. Publisher ... (click for more)

Symphony Sues Bank, Foundation Over Distribution Of Lillian Colby Trust

The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association has filed suing, saying it is not getting its promised share of the estate of Lillian L. Colby. The Chancery Court complaint was brought against SunTrust Bank and the Lillian L. Colby Chariable Foundation. The suit says Ms. Colby regularly attended CSO productions, was a season ticket holder for many years, and often made monetary ... (click for more)

Keep John Roberts, Commissioner Of Red Bank - And Response

It has been a week since the Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association held their candidate forum at Red Bank Middle School. I was privileged to have been asked to moderate the affair. What follows is my interpretation of the current issues facing the citizens of Red Bank and, at the end, a summation of whom I feel should be elected and whom I will be voting for personally. First, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)

East Hamilton Personnel Losses Boost Other 5-AAA Hoop Teams

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – East Hamilton’s loss has been solid gains for two other basketball teams in District 5-AAA and Ringgold, Ga. One of the Hurricanes’ top players, Kenny Bunton, left the program two days after Rodney English replaced fired Michael Stone and transferred to Walker Valley where he will play for coach Bob Williams’ Mustangs. “I took the job in March and two days ... (click for more)

John Shearer: Memories Of Watching 38 Baylor-McCallie Games

Back in the fall of 1971 when I was in the sixth grade at Bright School, I listened on the radio to the exciting football game between Baylor and McCallie schools, the first since the series had been discontinued after 1940. I was hoping to attend Baylor School as a student the next year, so I was quite excited that Baylor won, 9-7.  And the next year as a seventh-grader, ... (click for more)