Knoxville City Council members have called a video that showed a Knoxville Police Sergeant describing, in vulgar and offensive terms, how a male officer could have oral sex with a female "disgusting", "disturbing", and "indefensible".
On Wednesday, WBIR reported about a video that showed Sgt. Bobby Maxwell drawing on a whiteboard a stick figure depicting a woman while talking with officers in the squad. He appears to be offering a mock tutorial about encountering women and getting oral sex and could be heard using terms like "choke job" and "pearl necklace".
Maxwell, 57, abruptly retired July 1 after his lieutenant, Travis Brasfield, filed a complaint seeking an internal investigation.
Brasfield alleges KPD commanders tried to diminish Maxwell's conduct and also mishandled another complaint about an officer accused of having an affair with a Knox County deputy's wife.
Just as KPD Chief Eve Thomas and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero were set to address the video during a news conference Thursday afternoon, 10News heard back from two council members and their reactions to the video.
"This is highly disgusting and unacceptable behavior and should not be tolerated. I am thankful that these actions were reported and will await the internal Affairs Department investigation findings," District 6 Knoxville City Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie said.
"I found it disturbing but I trust the KPD/COK process to sort it out and take the appropriate action," Knoxville City Councilman George C. Wallace said.
Following Thursday's news conference Knoxville City Council Member Finbarr Saunders issued the following statement:
"Mayor Rogero and Chief Thomas made very distinct and thorough statements in this afternoon's press conference, and I agree with their sentiments wholeheartedly. I am stunned by the apparent behavior of one of our officers. I am appalled by what the former officer said, and it is indefensible. His words are reprehensible to all of us. Those words do not reflect the beliefs of the City of Knoxville nor the Knoxville Police Department.
"I trust the Administration to thoroughly investigate these events and to take all appropriate action."
Knoxville City Council Member Mark Campen also gave 10News a statement, a day after the news conference.
“The whole situation is appalling and reprehensible," the statement read. "The proof and allegations show behavior unbecoming of the KPD officers I have gotten to know during my two terms on council. Any officers, no matter their rank, should be removed from the force for inappropriate behavior such as those being investigated now.”
Council Member Seema Singh also gave 10News the following statement on Friday.
"I do not know all the details of the case, as it is being investigated. I did see the video with the officer discussing details advocating sexual violence against women and LGBTQ. It is disgusting and horrifying to me. No way is this acceptable and if others were involved in protecting him, they need severe consequences as well. We cannot write this off as "just a bad apple" and move on. Who else was in the room during this video that said nothing? They are also complicit".
"There are some jobs that require zero tolerance for any bad apples. Are there victims of sexual assault out there? Among his offenses, he has also hurt the reputation of the KPD officers that do their job with character. Thank you Travis Brasfield. You did the right thing."
Keith Lyon, the president of the Knoxville Fraternal Order of Police, also spoke to 10News on Friday.
"We don’t condone the behavior," he said. "We’re not going to condemn a 25-year veteran of the force who is a Marine. Without getting into specifics, two men on the force today are alive because of him [Sgt. Maxwell]. We don’t yet know all the facts.”
The city issued a notice Thursday morning ahead of the news conference:
"The Knoxville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit is investigating allegations of misconduct by a small number of officers, including a formal complaint that a sergeant made inappropriate comments and that his actions were not properly addressed by his superiors.
"Mayor Rogero and Chief Thomas, while unable to comment on the specific allegations pending the completion of the IAU review, will announce immediate steps being taken."
WBIR has obtained a copy of Brasfield's complaint, a supplement to his complaint, recordings of numerous meetings at which officer conduct was discussed and also has reviewed the personnel files of Maxwell, Brasfield and Brasfield's boss, Capt. Tony Willis.
Maxwell was a 25-year KPD veteran and US Marine veteran who was involved in a high-profile officer-involved shooting in 1997. Recordings obtained by WBIR show he began contemplating leaving KPD after complaints about his conduct emerged.
Brasfield seeks among other things the immediate removal of Capt. Willis and KPD Deputy Chief Kenny Miller from their command positions.
Maxwell could not be reached for comment. Brasfield, a licensed attorney in the state, has declined comment through attorney John Valliant.
Erland issued this statement this week: "There is an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation regarding the allegations, and we are not going to comment further on the matter until the conclusion of the investigation. As a note, Sgt. Maxwell is no longer employed by the Knoxville Police Department."
According to the city of Knoxville's Law Department, internal affairs reviews are underway as a result of Brasfield's complaint, and they will become public when they are complete. 10News has requested the documents.