Five Knox County Sheriff's Department patrol officers have been demoted to corrections officers and stripped of their law enforcement powers, after an incident during a traffic stop.
According to a release from KCSO, the incident happened on October 16 at 12:56 am, when Deputy Brian Rehg pulled over a car driven by a 19 year old male on Emory Road. The other officers arrived on the scene later.
The actions of the officers was not detailed in the release, though the Sheriff's Office is releasing the in-car videos of the incident Friday afternoon.
Three DVD's were released to the media. On the recordings, you can see Officer Brian Rehg approach the car and ask the driver if he knows why he pulled him over. The driver says speeding. Rehg tells the driver he saw him "spin out" "rev up" and speed off. He accuses him of speeding, reckless driving, and drag racing. He asks for his drivers license and insurance information, then asks for id from the passengers.
After other officers arrive, everyone is asked to get out of the car. Three males and two females get out and are told to sit on the curb.
The officers are seen and heard laughing and talking with each other. They can be heard using offensive language. It's not clear if they are talking to the five young people.
At one point, one of the deputies is seen getting a baseball bat out of the trunk of a patrol car. He hands it to another officer.
You can hear one of the officers speaking to the driver of the car. He asks him if he'd like one ticket for speeding or three tickets for speeding, reckless driving, and drag racing. The driver says one ticket. The officer replies that another officer has a proposition for him, and if he does it well, he'll get one ticket. At that time, it appears the officers turned off their mics, because there is no further sound. It is unclear what the proposition was because you cannot hear it or see the driver or his passengers on the recording. You can see the officers appear to be watching something and laughing. At one point on one of the recordings, you see one of the young men run in front of the patrol car. A few minutes later, the driver and his passengers are seen getting back into the car and driving off.
It appears that at least one of the deputies remained parked where the traffic stop took place for close to 30 minutes. Again, you do not see the officer and the mic remains off, so its unclear what he is doing.
Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones said the officers violated departmental policies and procedures during the traffic stop.
According to the investigation, the officers' actions were unauthorized and not approved. A complaint was made to the Office of Professional Standards. When it was determined that one of the deputies was Brad Cox, whose father is Captain Tom Cox, who oversees the Office of Professional Standards, the complaint was then forwarded to Lieutenant Mark Webber of the Major Crimes Unit to investigate.
The five deputies are:
Jason Acuff, 36, who was hired in 2006 and had been on patrol since 2009. According to his personnel file he has several commendations and was Corrections Officer of the Month in October, 2006.
Jeff Bryant, 38, was hired in 1999 and went on patrol in 2008.
Brad Cox, 31, was hired in 2002 and went to patrol in 2004. According to his personnel file, he received a one day suspension without pay in December 2009 for a car crash he was involved in. He was given a written reprimand for turning off his body microphone in April 2008 following a car crash and arrest. He received another one day suspension without pay for making an inappropriate remark to an officer in November 2002.
Brian Rehg, 34, was hired in 2003 and went to patrol in 2006.
Alex Slate, 40, was hired in 1997 and went to patrol in 2002. He was also a K-9 Officer and had several commendation letters in his personnel file.
"This is an embarrassing incident to the Sheriff's Office and certainly is not indicative of the men and women who work hard and are very professional," said Sheriff Jones. "I am releasing this information before any media inquiries because I think it's important for us to be open and honest."
The following is the letter sent by Sheriff Jones to each of the deputies:
"An investigation into your notoriously disgraceful personal conduct regarding a traffic stop on October 16, 2011 has been completed. Your personal conduct during this traffic stop was found to unprofessional, inexcusable, unauthorized and intolerable as a Law Enforcement officer with this office. Your actions and those of your fellow officers on improvising your own set of punishment for a relatively minor traffic law violation as you are well aware, violated departmental policies and procedures. The action displayed during this traffic stop not only brings discredit upon you and this agency, but that of Law Enforcement in general. Your incompetent, inefficient and negligent decision to ignore your training, Departmental Policies and Procedures and all around good sense entrusted in you as an officer is absolutely inexcusable and will not be condoned.
Based on your decision to directly violate Departmental Policy and Procedures, as well as violating Merit Council Rules: 9.3a: Failure to meet performance requirements, 9.3d: Incompetence, inefficient and negligence in the performance of duty, and 9.3g: Notoriously disgraceful personal conduct, I have made the decision to strip you of your Law Enforcement powers and demote you from the position of Patrol Officer to a Correction Officer effective immediately."
10News will have more on this story as it becomes available.