Portland Mayor Fires 2 Police Officers - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Portland Mayor Fires 2 Police Officers


By Mark Bellinger

PORTLAND, Tenn. - The Mayor of Portland has shaken up the police department. On Tuesday, he fired two officers and the man who led the department stepped aside.

"I've made the decision to terminate those two officers immediately," Mayor Ken Wilber said at a Tuesday press conference.

The officers who were fired are Sergeant Dana Heckart and Lieutenant Melvin McLerran. City officials said they were caught on tape bashing city leaders over proposed budget cuts.

In May 2010, the city council proposed cutting jobs and hiking insurance rates. More than a dozen unhappy officers gathered in a meeting. One of the officers secretly recorded the meeting.   

City officials said Sergeant Heckart was heard on camera using going off on council members and the mayor.

"We'll show'em how to do that when we walk up and start pistol whipping (expletive)," Heckart said.

"I can promise you, in three years, you'll see 30 (expletive) patrol officers, and you'll see a city that's scared (expletive) to (expletive) with police," Heckart continued.

Mayor Wilber said he met with Public Safety Director and Police Chief Al West about the incident.  West recommended demotions and a 5-day suspension without pay.

But Monday night at a council meeting council members made it clear that wasn't good enough.  So, the mayor said after a sleepless night he decided to fire the officers. When asked why he said the men were insubordinate.

"I think it was like 3 or 4 direct policies in the police manual that were violated," said Wilber.

Council members said Sergeant Heckart may have been just venting his frustrations, but they said it was too much and they're worried he couldn't be trusted on the street.

"I think we as a council felt it would be very hard to regain the public trust in our police department if something more severe was not done," councilman Tim Coker said.

"Had something arisen and they had to make a tough decision and be in a confrontation with someone and they made the claim of mistreatment we would never be able to defend those individuals," councilman Jody McDowell said.

On the tape recording Lieutenant McLerran appeared just to tell officers to try and make change through the system.

"I encourage everybody's family and wives or somebody to show up to these council meetings for the next six months," said McLerran on the tape.

Mayor Wilber said firing McLerran was justified because he should have done something.

"The more I thought about it, he was the ranking officer and at some point he should have stopped the meeting and said ‘hey we're here about the cuts and different things and not about all this other," Wilber added.

The city council has also decided to get rid of the position of Public Safety Director. Al West held that position.

He was responsible for running the police and fire departments. Now, he'll just be fire chief.

The city is going to search for a new police chief. Council members we spoke to said the change is not connected to the firing of the two police officers.

The officers who were fired have a right to appeal, but the Mayor said he's ready to defend the decision.

NewsChannel 5 tried to contact those officers, but we were not able to reach them.

Email: mbellinger@newschannel5.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/NC5MarkBellinger
Twitter: Twitter.com/NC5_MBellinger

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