In Unanimous Vote, Ridgetop Board Keeps One Officer
RIDGETOP TENNESSEE: (Smokey Barn News) – Ridgetop’s 7 pm city board meeting was standing room only Tuesday evening as citizens packed the room hoping to express their feelings about the town’s police force.
After about two hours and thirty minutes of citizen-after-citizen begging the board to keep the police force intact, the board approved its annual budget that included enough money for just one officer.
“I’m going to have to look at what actually just happened, I’m not real sure,” said Ridgetop Police Chief Brian Morris. “I don’t know if they just fired everybody but me. That’s what it sounded like. I don’t even know if they can do that with the restraining order they have against them right now. So, I’m going to have to talk the lawyers to see exactly where we stand. – I think they’re a bunch of crooks and a bunch of liars-100 percent. It’s a vendetta against me. They should have fired me because I’m not going to stop. Until they fire me, I’m going to come after them a-hundred-percent- because I’m angry now.”
Smokey Barn News ran the meeting live. If you would like to see the meeting, as well as our interview with Chief Morris and other residents, click here to view a recording of the live feed.
The city’s Mayor, Tony Reasoner, declined an offer to speak to Smokey Barn News on camera but during the meeting said he was not mad at Chief Morris. The packed room shouted in disbelief.
As in previous meetings, citizens said they would be glad to pay higher taxes to keep the police force. Citizens even offered funding ideas to the board, like use the city’s parks money. Another idea was to delay bridge repair work to fund the police department. But when it was all said and done, the vote was done and the decision was made.
Last week, on the advice of their attorneys, the Ridgetop board canceled its planned meeting. Citizens of Ridgetop were greeted with a sign on the door stating that said the 7 pm meeting, slated to discuss the budget and the police department had been canceled. The sign offered no explanation leaving the crowd to speculate. Ridgetop Mayor Tony Reasoner told Smokey Barn News via text message that the decision to cancel the meeting last week came at the advice of the city’s attorney. This, all in the wake of the city’s decision to close the police department which led to a judge’s decision to force the city to reopen it just days later. For the full history of what led to that decision, scroll down if you are viewing this story on Smokey’s main site.
Smokey Barn News was in attendance last week and planned to run the meeting live. After the meeting was canceled Ridgetop’s (temporally reinstated) Police Chief Bryan Morris stepped aside to again talk with Smokey Barn News about the antithetical progression of his relationship with city leaders.
Ridgetop Police Dept. Reopens After Temporary Injunction
ROBERTSON COUNTY TENNESSEE: (Smokey Barn News) – After being closed by Ridgetop city officials earlier this week, the Ridgetop Police Department has reopened following a court order to hand the keys over to Police Chief Bryan Morris.
With the tempory injunction, the police department will be allowed to operate until July 1 at which time a judge will either extend or dissolve the injunction. The injunction will give the city and the police department time to figure out what path both parties want to take.
It has only been a few days since the city of Ridgetop completely dissolved its police department saying they can’t afford the department any longer.
The now-restored Police Chief Bryan Morris told Smokey Barn News on Monday that the decision came during a special called meeting Monday evening. The decision coming in at 7:15 pm.
After the meeting, Morris said he was told to take two police vehicles that were parked at city hall and return them to the station. Once at the station, Morris says a locksmith was already working on the locks. “That’s very funny,” Morris said. “I mean if they haven’t talked about this (which would be breaking the sunshine laws) and they hadn’t already planned on doing this why was there already a locksmith changing the locks?”
Morris said he was told the special called meeting was posted but no one he knows was aware of the meeting. “They had the workshop which was posted, then immediately they had a special called meeting which lasted about 10 minutes and they voted to do away with the police department altogether,” Morris said. “It was Mark Johnson that made the motion to end the police department effective immediately,” according to Morris.
Chief Morris was in the meeting, he was told the reason for closing down the department was that the city could no longer afford the police force.
“It’s horrible, I think 100% there is money for a police department,” Morris said. “What they’ve done is take out the revenue for the tickets, they took that down to zero because they are throwing a fit because they got caught, you know, violating the ticket quota, so they put a zero on the revenue so now they’re saying they are $300 in the hole.
“Every city in the state of Tennessee that has a police department has a line item for revenue, every one of them and they don’t want to put anything there. They only have a hundred and twenty grand for the police department and they thought they could spend that money elsewhere better than to have a police department. I think it’s a 100% retaliation against me, and everybody knows it,” Morris said.
On Monday Morris said Mayor, Tony Reasoner, told him, “If I could fire you I would fire you.” Morris told Smokey Barn News that he believes that the city’s elimination of the police department is an attempt to avoid a lawsuit. “I think it’s just a 100% retaliation,” Morris repeated.”
Five employees lost their jobs in the decision to eliminate the police force. Assistant Police Chief Bill Bratton, Detective Ryan Tomlin, K9 Officer Shawn Taylor, Officer Alex Shotomide and Chief Morris all lost their jobs in the decision. At the time of our conversation with Chief Morris he had not been able to reach all his employees, one or two will likely learn about the decision online.
Once inside the station, Morris said he told Mayor Reasoner he had a large number of personal belongings in the building. “Morris said the Mayor told him, “Well, you call me tomorrow after 9 am and we’ll figure out a time for you to get it but you’re not allowed in the building without me.”
Morris said he removed his firearm and set it on his desk. “Is that unloaded,” Morris said the Mayor asked. Morris said he replied, “We don’t carry unloaded weapons. So I picked it up, unloaded it and laid it back down on the desk.” Morris said it was a tough moment. “You know, that department means the world to me. I kind of feel like we built that thing from the ground up. You see what kind of case closed rate we had. I was really proud of that and our training and everything else and it hurts, it hurts really bad.”
What hurts me worse is the citizens. I know for a fact how those citizens feel about us and just personal feelings with the mayor and the board disliking me so much that they’re willing to get rid of a whole police department and leave their own city unprotected just to get back at me. There’s hurt, there’s anger, you know, every emotion you can think of. It wasn’t that high paying of a job to begin with. The only thing that worries me is I have a pregnant wife. I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen with insurance, any of that stuff,” Morris said.
Smokey Barn News has reached out to Mayor Reasoner by thus far the only comment he has offered is, “I reckon will see what comes up July one.”
The decision to eliminate the police department fell 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.
The investigation was triggered by Ridgetop’s own police chief. MORE Ultimately the DA determined that no charges would be filed against the city or any of its leaders. MORE
As you can see in the video below, many citizens came out in the city’s last monthly meeting in support for the police department solely based on a rumor the city might disband it, Monday they did.
Now that a judge has ordered the department to be reopened, only time will tell what direction the city and its police department will take.
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