Decherd city leaders schedule meeting to discuss whether to fire police chief

Posted at 10:43 AM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 12:12:32-04

DECHERD, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Board of Mayor and Alderman in the City of Decherd has announced a special called meeting for Thursday to discuss whether to fire Police Chief Ross Peterson.

The announced meeting comes after a series of reports from NewsChannel 5 involving events surrounding a June road rage incident on I-24 involving off-duty Decherd police officer Mathew Ward.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office says Ward was off-duty and more than 50 miles from his jurisdiction when he held a driver at gunpoint using his police-issued service weapon.

Cell phone video captured the encounter, with Ward at one point yelling to the victim, "I am on duty 24/7!"

Officer road rage incident

Ward now faces an aggravated assault charge and was allowed to resign from the Decherd Police Department.

Publicly-available training records obtained by NewsChannel 5 reveal that Ward's police trainers at his previous job raised several red flags during his time as an officer-in-training.

But last week, Chief Peterson told city leaders he didn't ask for those records, and didn't conduct an investigation into Ward's past. Peterson told the Board of Mayor and Alderman and NewsChannel 5 that was because Ward hadn't signed a liability release that would have authorized the department to ask detailed questions that dug into Ward's background. Police documents we obtained contradict that explanation.

Decherd Vice Mayor Richard Gulley says the Decherd Board of Mayor and Aldermen will now be meeting this week to "debate the future employment of safety director Ross Peterson and what actions, if any, will or should be taken."

The meeting has been publicly-noticed on the city's facebook page and website. Gulley says the discussion will be public and not happen during a closed executive session. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday.