Chattanooga police officers reinstated following prior reassignment

Updates to department's truthfulness policy demand full truth from officers; jobs could otherwise be terminated

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Fourteen Chattanooga police officers were “temporarily reassigned” back in August after adjustments were made to the department’s truthfulness policy.

On Wednesday, the city reached a settlement agreement with those officers.

Chattanooga’s Ellis Smith said in a press release this afternoon that the previously reassigned officers “have been reinstated.”

He says the city and all involved parties endured a “complicated discussion” involving state law, employment law, and more.

But everyone is ready to move forward.

Last summer, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly’s office worked alongside the city’s police department, reviewing assignments of all officers alleged to have been less than truthful on duty.

Fourteen officers were later temporarily reassigned following evaluations from an internal committee of sworn officers.

“This is, I think, pretty standard for us to remain engaged in these discussions,” City Chief of Staff Joda Thongnopnua said on August 25, 2022. “But of course, Chief Murphy is leading the way and making sure that her department is staffed with officers that have the high standards of integrity and law enforcement that is very critical.”

Five months later, the officers “have been reinstated and made whole for lost earnings” during their two-week reassignment period.

Chattanooga’s Ellis Smith says those reassignments occurred following “enhanced standards” to the police department’s truthfulness policy — an updated policy that everyone is ready to serve under.

“The important thing is to put the problems of the past that were decided in the past are in the past,” Smith said. “Moving forward, we’re got higher standards for police conduct — that’s something that everybody agrees on. Everybody involved was willing to work together to come to an arrangement that protects the residents, taxpayers, our employees and gets everybody working together moving forward.”

Smith says the city supports the department’s “emphasis on higher standards for officer conduct and ethics.”

He also says that for Police Chief Celeste Murphy, the updated policy is the new standard not meant to be broken.

“What Chief Murphy has done as Chief is she’s said if it’s something other than the truth, then that’s unacceptable,” Smith said. “It’s got to be the truth and only the truth — that’s an offense that can lead to termination now.”

In Smith’s press release, he says settlement costs for all affected officers, including attorneys fees, are expected to be less than $60,000.

The release also states that Chattanooga “officers will be held to the highest standards of truthfulness and integrity” when on the job.

If not, as Smith said, they could be out of a job.

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