Following Ticket Quota Controversy Ridgetop Cuts Police Hours
RIDGETOP TENNESSEE: (Smokey Barn News) – After several months of tension between Ridgetop city leaders and its own police department, the city has decided to transition its police force to operate as a part-time service.
The decision falls in the wake of an investigation by District Attorney General Tom P. Thompson, Jr. over the legality of city leaders allegedly setting illegal ticket quotas for its police force.
Smokey Barn News has reached out to city leaders for comment but it’s not clear if the city’s police force will be reduced in size, however, we have learned that at least one officer has submitted their resignation.
The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office received a call from Ridgetop Mayor Tony Reasoner Friday morning about the city’s decision to go part-time with its police force.
Will there be a delay in law enforcement response for Ridgetop citizens?
“The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office is required to answer calls for service within Ridgetop City limits when city officers are not available,” said PIO Jessica Drake with the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office.
Drake told Smokey Barn News that Ridgetop’s decision to go part-time will increase the call volume for the Sheriff’s Office patrol division and they will request additional manpower to meet the demand.
The Sheriff’s Office is also currently responding to calls for service for other cities with part-time police agencies. The Coopertown Police Department, and Cross Plains Police Department both operate part-time.
The City of Cross Plains has currently not filled 2 full-time positions and is running one part-time officer. Additionally, the Coopertown Police Department does not run 24/7 police coverage. In order to minimize response times, Sheriff Michael Van Dyke has requested the county commission provide additional Patrol Deputies for fiscal year budget 2019-2020.
“The Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to providing professional law enforcement services to every citizen of Robertson County and must be allocated the resources to do so.”
Smokey Barn News spoke to Ridgetop Police Chief Bryan Morris Friday. Morris says the city’s decision to go part time is retaliation.
Morris says that though his department had a better than 80% clearance rate on crimes he was asked not to do investigations but rather focus on traffic citations. Morris said Vice Mayor McCaw Johnson told him that his department needed to issue 210 tickets a month to meet budgetary needs. Morris said that he told Johnson “That’s against the law.” Morris recorded the encounter which was released to the media.
That recording triggered an investigation by District Attorney General Tom P. Thompson, Jr. who, after a review of the evidence, decided that Ridgetop Mayor Tony Reasoner and Vice-Mayor McCaw Johnson would not face prosecution because what they did was not a “criminal act.”
Morris says city leaders were looking at several options for his department. 1) Slim the department, 2) Eliminate the department altogether, or 3) make it a part-time department. Tony Reasoner’s call to the Sheriff’s office Friday morning would indicate that (at least for the moment) the department will be reduced to part-time.
Ridgetop currently has six police officers. Two will retire soon, so with the city going part-time, that would leave three officers working 30 daytime hours per week. Morris said the city’s decision to go part-time would also end health benefits for the department.
Morris isn’t sure what will be left of his department after the city goes part-time but it looks like there will be three officers (including Morris) that will run the department on 14.5-hour shifts, 2 days a week for each officer. Those shifts would be from 7 am to 9:30 pm, Morris said.
“It’s nothing against the Sheriff’s Department, I love them and I think they do an awesome job but unless they added a whole bunch of officers, the city’s not going to get the coverage it needs,” Morris said.
“The thing that bothers me about this whole deal is that they are mad at me, it’s retaliation for the investigation that I started and they’re using the cover of ‘We don’t have the money to support a police department’ and I can 100% without-a-doubt say that that is absolutely not true.”
“They’re going to spend their last year in office (all three are the ones that despise me and are up for election in 2020) but they’re going to spend their last year tearing the police department down and apart and hurting the city, knowing they are not going to get reelected again next year. They’re just doing it for spite, it’s 100% spite.”
Q) Do you feel like you are being forced out? “Oh yeah, definitely, 100% but I don’t know that I will leave. Is it going to make it really hard on me, yes but I’m committed to staying here until this gets resolved.” Morris told Smokey Barn News that he may just try to stay with it until the next election. Assuming a new team is elected, Morris is hoping they would reinstate the police force. With the election still months away, it could be a long wait.
Q) Do you believe the press coverage will make it easier or harder to find another job in law enforcement? “It’s hurt me more than it helped me because most of the time cities are not going to hire somebody that, you know, a city doesn’t want to be told it’s wrong,” Morris said. “For me to go after them the way I went after them (and they were wrong) but for me to do that, any city that’s going to look at hiring me is going to think, ‘well gosh, what if he starts digging into everything we’re doing.'”
“It’s kind of a moral thing, I don’t think I should leave because they’re wrong,” Morris said. “I just don’t think to leave would be the best thing for the department. I love that place, I love that department I love that city. I think we did a phenomenal job with that police department.”
Q) Do you have any litigious plans? “I don’t know really until I talk to my lawyers. I had lawyers but I discontinued their services last week and this happened, so, they’re aware of what’s going on but I haven’t talked to them yet. Of course, their inclination is that we should sue. My issue with that is, I don’t want to cost the city. If I could take it from them, the board, yeah, but I don’t want me to be the reason the city loses money, if that makes any sense. The taxpayers aren’t the ones doing this.”
Morris said, Senator Mark Pody reached out him last week and asked him to come down to the capital and meet with him in his office. “Mark’s upset, Mark doesn’t understand why nothing has been done. If I’m covered as a whistle-blower, why are they still retaliating against me, and that was before any of this happened.” Morris said that Senator Pody texted him today and said he’s baffled as to what’s going on.
According to Morris, Senator Pody asked him what his real concerns are, not with just your department but with this whole situation. “My fundamental concern (Mark) is that you have elected officials running a city, running a police department, with a (police) chief that has about 3,000 hours of training and you’ve got people that you elect off the street that may or may not have a high school education, and there’s absolutely no requirement for them. There’s no training, they don’t have to know a budget they don’t have to understand a budget, they don’t have to understand police work but they’re the ones making the decisions for the city and it’s scary. That to me is just scary.”
Morris said that the only communication he has with the mayor now is with the city attorney present.
Smokey Barn News has reached out to the city attorney, the mayor, city hall, the city’s FB page and website but as of Friday afternoon, no statement has been offered to citizens other than what was said in Thursday’s city meeting and through the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office release stating that Ridgetop’s police force was going part-time.
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