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Police Chief Accuses Secret Service Of Misconduct

Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 14, 2014
and last updated 2015-09-07 14:25:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville's police chief is raising stunning new allegations regarding the U.S. Secret Service, saying local agents once asked his officers to fake a warrant.

Even more disturbing, Chief Steve Anderson said he complained to top Secret Service officials in Washington, and they did not seem to care.

The allegations regarding the January 2013 incident are contained in a letter that Anderson sent last week to several members of the House Committee on Oversight. That's the congressional committee that has spearheaded the on-going investigation into the Secret Service. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was recently forced to resign as a result of that scandal.

"There's already a lot of fodder to attack the Secret Service with, and this will be more," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, who was among the committee members who received the letter.

In the Nashville case, a Secret Service agent made a frantic call for backup to Nashville police after he and another agent went to the home of a Nashville man, investigating threatening comments on Facebook about the President. The man who posted them had refused to let the agents into his house.

"He shoved the door in our face and went around the corner. Looks like, we're not sure if he ... possibly he had a gun in his hands," the agent told a 911 operator.

In a letter that he first sent to Secret Service headquarters, the Nashville police chief recounted what happened.

"The resident refused to come outside and shouted back, 'Show me your warrant,'" Anderson wrote.

So "one of the agents then asked a [police] sergeant to 'wave a piece of paper' in an apparent effort to dupe the resident into thinking that they indeed had a warrant."



Rep. Cooper said that "what [Anderson] talks about is abuse of power by the Secret Service, not just in Washington, but here is Nashville. So that's concerning."

"You can't steamroll a citizen of this country because we all have rights," the congressman added.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, "And that's a basic violation of constitutional rights."

"Absolutely," Cooper agreed.

In fact, the chief said that, as soon as officers arrived, they realized that the Secret Service agents did not have a legal basis to enter the man's house, and the man -- who had a legal permit to carry a gun -- had never actually threatened anyone.

That's when officers decided to pull out.

"I think you can see that had the MNPD officers complied with the directive from the Secret Service agents, there was likelihood for this event to have escalated into a serious and/or embarrassing situation for both of our agencies," Anderson wrote to then-Director Pierson and Assistant Director A.T. Smith.

But, in the more recent letter to the congressional committee, Anderson said that Pierson "did not acknowledge my letter."

Assistant Director Smith did call, but "his tone, at best, was condescending and dismissive," the chief added. "I realized that I was being told, in a polite manner, to mind my own affairs."



That's when Anderson demanded a meeting with bosses inside the Secret Service's Nashville office.

He recalled asking, "Do you think it is appropriate to wave a piece of paper in the air and tell him you have a warrant when you do not have a warrant?"

"Answer: 'I don't know. I'm not a lawyer.'"



The legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, Thomas Castelli, called the incident an "absolutely appalling" violation of basic constitutional principles.

"If this is something that not all law enforcement -- and I'm talking about from the cop patrolling the streets in our smallest town in Tennessee all the way up to the Secret Service and the FBI -- if this is not something that they're taught, then that's a big problem," Castelli said.

Police said the resident had not actually committed a crime.

Now, as a result of this and other incidents, the police chief said in his letter to Congress that his officers now need approval from top brass before they are allowed to work with U.S. Secret Service agents.

"Frankly, this is not a good way to do business," Anderson acknowledged.

"I completely recognize the need for our two agencies to work together, but at the same time I find it necessary to protect the personnel I am responsible for from being compelled to engage in questionable activities."



The Nashville police chief said he believed it was important to bring attention to the Nashville incident because "merely changing the director, without changing the culture of mid-level management, will not bring about any meaningful change in the organization."

Cooper acknowledged that "a lot of folks may say this is just in Nashville."

"But if this is symptomatic of a larger problem, it really needs to be solved nationwide," the congressman added.

Late Monday afternoon, the Secret Service issued the following statement:

The Secret Service values our relationship with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The January 2013 incident described by Chief Anderson was addressed by supervisors in the Secret Service Nashville Field Office. In addition, Deputy Director A.T. Smith called Chief Anderson at the time of his letter to our agency to express his regret at the way this incident was handled by field office personnel.

We encourage Chief Anderson to continue to work with the Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville Secret Service field office, who is his appropriate contact on matters of mutual concern. 

Read Chief Steve Anderson's letter