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Commission Begins Decertifying Metro Police Officers

Commission Begins Decertifying Metro Police Officers
Posted at 8:01 PM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 21:08:32-05

State regulators are now taking steps to decertify nearly a dozen former Metro police officers, officers who left the department for serious disciplinary offenses.

This comes after NewsChannel 5 Investigates raised questions about how the Metro Police Department handles officers who get into trouble. Our investigation first revealed that Metro routinely makes back room deals with officers to get them off the force.

Now, we've found these same deals are making it more difficult for the state now to discipline these officers.

As the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards Training (POST) Commission began hearings recently to decide whether former Metro police officers should lose their state license to work in law enforcement, the deals these officers made to leave Metro came up repeatedly.

The Metro police department's representative repeatedly told the commission these agreements prevented her from taking a pro-active role in the state's disciplinary process.

Kathy Morante, director of the Metro Police Department's Professional Standards Division, told the commission, "When that settlement is made, it is made very clear to the officer that we are not going to seek decertification."

As NewsChannel 5 Investigates first revealed last year, Metro has routinely allowed officers accused of serious disciplinary problems, even criminal charges, to take a 30-day suspension and resign in what's known as "good standing" rather than be fired.

In return, we found, Metro agreed to not seek POST decertification, meaning the department promised it would not go before the state board and ask the commission to revoke that officer's POST certificate.

Morante explained to the commission that, because of these agreements Metro made with the officers, she would only answer specific questions about each case and nothing more.

"Does the commission generally look to the department for guidance?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked the executive director of the POST Commission.

"Generally," replied Brian Grisham.

And generally, Grisham explained, the commission gets it.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates followed that up by asking, "And when she (the Metro Police Department's Morante) gets up there and says, 'We can't give you much guidance. We can answer questions,' does that kind of make it more difficult for the commission?"

Grisham answered,"Yes, I could see them struggling. They were struggling with it today."

The POST Commission has also struggled with how to handle the more than 90 disciplinary files Metro suddenly delivered last summer after our investigation found Metro had for years failed to notify POST when its officers had been suspended and/or left the department for serious disciplinary problems.

Anthony Wilfert, a former Metro officer who was at the meeting for his own hearing< told the commission: "It's very disturbing that a department of that size thinks that they can do whatever they want to with no accountability."

That's because, for the former Metro officers, this delay on Metro's part means the officers are now having to defend their actions, in many cases, years after they got into trouble.

"Had Metro done what they were supposed to do from minute one, we wouldn't be standing here today," Wilfert told POST members.

When we first exposed these deals, Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson told us these agreements were best for the department because they were the quickest way to get these officers off the force. And Metro's representative told commission at the hearing that the police department is still making these deals.