Fourteen Chattanooga Police Department officers have resolved their appeal following Chief Celeste Murphy’s August 2022 decision to strip them of their law enforcement duties.
Nine of the officers were represented by the local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police and attorneys Janie Parks Varnell and Logan Davis, of Davis & Hoss, P.C., and have been permanently restored to their previously assigned positions and will continue to serve the community, it was stated.
Further, the officers were compensated for lost wages and other economic and non-economic damages.
Attorney Varnell said the city has also agreed to remove any Brady letters from the officers’ internal affairs files.
She said, “The mayor’s office and the city attorney’s office apparently recognized early on that what happened in August was a mistake and made the correct decision to try to resolve this case. As a result, this matter was settled and now these officers can move their careers forward.
Attorney Logan Davis said, “While the damage of the chief’s decision will follow these officers throughout their career, this settlement goes a long way to correct this mistake and allows everyone to begin to move on from it.”
City officials said, "The city of Chattanooga has reached a settlement agreement with 14 officers who were temporarily reassigned following enhancements to the truthfulness policy for the Chattanooga Police Department.
"In the course of raising department standards for officer truthfulness, several process and legal concerns were raised by affected employees asserting that related reassignment and personnel changes were out of compliance with existing department policy. This issue was complex and took lawyers months to untangle, due to questions that involved HR policy, state law, due process, and other issues.
"The officers in question had previously sustained lesser allegations, some decades old, which had already been adjudicated under prior rules. The officers have now been reinstated and made whole for lost earnings during the two-week period during which they had been reassigned.
"However, the department will proceed under the new, higher standards for truthfulness and officer conduct, which mandates termination for any officer who lies or knowingly misstates facts. Going forward, there is no gray area in CPD’s policy manual between terms such as misrepresentation versus untruthfulness. Officers will be held to the highest standards of truthfulness and integrity, and a sustained finding of lack of truthfulness will result in termination."
Joda Thongnopnua, chief of staff for the city of Chattanooga, said, “Chief Murphy has worked to raise the standards for police integrity and eliminate gray areas from CPD’s policy manual, which the administration supports, and we must also be compliant with state law and department policy.
“This discussion could have dragged out quite a bit longer, but after consulting with our attorneys, all parties agreed that it was in the best interests of our residents to settle the legal questions of the past, and focus on moving forward with the department’s new, higher conduct standards.”
The settlement costs are expected to be less than $60,000, including attorneys fees. All affected officers were offered identical settlement terms, it was stated.
“We are grateful for the cooperation of CPD, the City’s legal and human resources departments, as well as the various employee groups who participated to help reach a resolution on this complex matter,” Mr. Thongnopnua said.