Settlement Reached Between City And 2 Officers Who Were Fired In Tatum Altercation

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Two former city police officers who were fired after an altercation with inmate Adam Tatum and then won reinstatement by an administrative law judge have reached a settlement with the city of Chattanooga on all issues.

Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley will not go back with the Chattanooga Police Department.

The city will give them a "neutral" recommendation toward police employment elsewhere.

In the settlement, the city agrees to pay the $5,000 that each officer owed in an earlier settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by Tatum.

They earlier were given back pay in accordance with a ruling that was favorable to them by Administrative Law Judge Kim Summers.

Also, they are receiving 10 additional months of pay from the city. 

The city is dropping its appeal of the ruling by ALJ Summers before Circuit Court Judge Neil Thomas.

A federal lawsuit filed by former officers Emmor and Cooley against the city will be dismissed. That $500,000 lawsuit was brought against the city, the city police department and then-Police Chief Bobby Dodd.

Under an earlier agreement between the city and defense attorneys Bryan Hoss and Stevie Phillips for Emmer and attorney Jonathon Guthrie for Cooley, net pay due former officer Cooley (minus fire and police pension contributions) was $14,813.88. Net pay due former officer Emmer (minus fire and police pension contributions) was $16,090.31. That was paid earlier.

Their 21-page complaint said defendants had made "damaging public statements" about the officers when they were dismissed, during a criminal investigation that Chief Dodd initiated and during the appeal of the case.

It said the investigation and statements "have prevented these officers from obtaining gainful employment" and that "these public comments have imposed an untrue and unjust stigma upon Officers Emmer and Cooley professionally and personally and have effectively denied them the freedom to take advantage of other employment opportunities."

In a 30-page opinion, ALJ Summers earlier said that "Chattanooga did not show by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of the Grievants was appropriate."  

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

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.

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 hearing 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. . " 

After her ruling, Police Chief Dodd said he would make the same decision again - to fire them. Mayor Andy Berke hit the decision and said it would be appealed.

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