Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy on Thursday issued a statement "in response to several requests we have received from media organizations and in an effort to clear up any misunderstandings."
She said, "The US Attorney's Office (USAO) does not make personnel decisions for the department.
Officers were not investigated by the USAO.
"No one outside the department makes personnel decisions for the department.
"The decision to transition the officers to a non-enforcement capacity was made by Chief Murphy in the interest of integrity.
"These officers have not been terminated or demoted."
Chief Murphy earlier said that the Chattanooga Police Department recently received a request from a representative of the U.S. Attorney’s office for a list of officers who had sustained allegations of untruthfulness or misrepresentation, for the purposes of identifying officers who would not be allowed to testify in court.
Upon receiving the request, Chief Murphy "fulfilled her duty to Chattanooga residents and the justice system" and provided the list of 10 officers to federal and state prosecutors. Because the affected officers may no longer be able to testify in court, Chief Murphy made the decision to remove them from enforcement responsibilities. These officers have been reassigned to roles and responsibilities that do not require court testimony.
The Fraternal Order of Police issued this statement, "On Aug. 16, six members of the Fraternal Order of Police were informed that they are being reassigned to a non-enforcement capacity by Chief Celeste Murphy. This was done with no prior notice, and no opportunity for these members to be heard.
"These officers who were relieved of duty were given deceptive reasons for the meeting, and given 17 hours’ notice. This was done in violation of their due process rights as employees of the Chattanooga Police Department and the city of Chattanooga.
"These officers have made mistakes in the past. They were investigated by professional standards, held accountable by the Office of the Chief of Police, and disciplined in accordance with existing department policy. By relieving these officers of duty, Chief Murphy is holding them to a policy that did not exist until today.
"The Fraternal Order of Police stands by these officers who have been unjustly relieved of duty. They have served this community with integrity for years, and have now been wronged by the very Department they work for.
"The Fraternal Order of Police is prepared to show that these officer’s Due Process rights were violated by Chief Celeste Murphy and that the information being made public is inaccurate and misleading."
City police said, "There are no currently employed officers who have sustained allegations of untruthfulness, as department policy requires immediate termination for such an offense. Under previous department policy, misrepresentation was treated differently from untruthfulness. However, CPD has eliminated that distinction and moving forward all sustained allegations relating to a lack of truthfulness now result in immediate termination."
Chief Murphy said, “Chattanooga residents, our fellow CPD officers, as well as the state and federal prosecutors who present these cases should have full confidence that officers who investigate crimes, apprehend suspects, and testify in court uphold the highest standards of integrity. It is unacceptable that a case could be jeopardized due to an integrity issue with an officer who was found to have previously misrepresented the truth or filed a false report.”
"The internal affairs investigations at issue were related to internal policy violations, and none of the affected officers are accused of misrepresentation in a court of law.
"However, whenever an internal affairs investigation finds that an officer has, in the course of their duties, been less than truthful, it can call into question the integrity of their testimony in court, jeopardizing a prosecutor's ability to obtain a conviction. Our criminal justice system depends on law enforcement officers to investigate and apprehend suspects, as well as testify against them in court.
"Officer testimony is critical to a prosecutor’s ability to present evidence that would lead to a proper verdict and bring those responsible for committing a crime to justice.
"Because of the sensitivity of this matter and out of respect for our officers, we will have no further comment on this issue."