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New KPD Chief Paul Noel fires lieutenant, suspends captain for violating department policies

Knoxville Police held a pre-disciplinary hearing Monday for an Internal Affairs investigation stemming from a previous investigation about allegations of racism.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville Police Department Chief Paul Noel fired a veteran lieutenant and suspended a member of the command staff for 10 days after he said they violated department policies, according to an email sent Monday to the department. 

Knoxville Police Public Information Officer Scott Erland confirmed Noel fired Lt. Lance Earlywine and suspended Capt. Donald Jones for 10 days. 

Captain Jones is the acting commander of the Patrol Division within KPD.

Credit: KPD
Section of Chief Paul Noel's email from Monday to the force.

Noel, on the job about five weeks, fired Earlywine and suspended Jones during a pre-disciplinary hearing Monday, after a completed Internal Affairs investigation. 

The Internal Affairs Investigation found Lt. Lance Earlywine violated the department's Truthfulness policy after he was "untruthful" in sworn statements during a previous Internal Affairs investigation.

Credit: KPD
KPD Lt. Lance Earlywine

"We recover from most mistakes, take the appropriate action and move forward," Noel wrote in the email. "Unfortunately, truthfulness is not one of those mistakes."

"As police officers, we are held to a higher standard. One of those standards is to tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts, at all times," he added.

Erland said the completed Internal Affairs investigation stemmed from an investigation that started in June 2020. 

In 2020, Knoxville Police opened an investigation into allegations of racism within the department's Violence Reduction Team (VRT). A KPD officer who resigned in February 2020 complained about a hostile work environment and racism he experienced during his exit interview.

That investigation centered around Officer Adam Broome who resigned before the investigation ended. Both Earlywine and Jones were exonerated in their handling of the investigation.

In the investigation file, Officer Deondrè Jackson, not the officer who made the original complaint, said Broome made racist remarks to him and created a toxic work environment. 

Jackson told investigators Broome said, 'Hey, Jackson, you should know something about being on a slave ship, shouldn't you?'

On June 20, 2019, Jackson told the IA Investigator he believed the situation with Broome was not getting better, and he was a "blatant racist." Officer Christopher Morgan also said he told Earlywine about "every hostile interaction I had with Broome." 

However, in his interview with Internal Affairs investigators, Earlywine said nobody came and complained to him about Broome, records show. 

The Internal Affairs investigation from this year found that Earlywine was untruthful in that statement, and found four officers who contradicted Earlywine's statements in the previous investigation, according to its summary. 

Credit: KPD
KPD Capt. Don Jones

The new investigation found Captain Jones erred in his handling of Officer Jackson's complaint. When Jackson approached Jones with allegations against Officer Broome, Captain Jones asked him if the racist comments were just bad jokes and said he could handle it. However, the Internal Affairs investigation summary said "supervisors are not to resolve complaints of harassment related to race," and he should've immediately contacted Civil Service, the Law Department or Internal Affairs. 

Earlywine appealed his firing on July 18 and asked the Civil Service Merit Board to review the disciplinary actions. According to the redacted request, Earlywine argued he was telling the truth and said he did not recall any of the officers telling him Broome made statements toward Jackson specifically about slave ships or reparations -- only that they had told him on June 20, 2019, that Broome's conduct was "harassing and intimidating or words to that effect."

In the request, Earlywine acknowledged during the July 18 predisposition hearing he should have reported Broome's conduct to Internal Affairs. He asked the board to reinstate his employment and rank at KPD. 

Noel, through spokesperson Erland, would not comment on this case. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon hired Noel this spring to replace Eve Thomas, who retired. Noel previously was a veteran officer with the New Orleans Police Department where he gained a reputation as a reformer.

Jones' suspension and Earlywine's firing were first reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

A spokesperson from KPD said they would not be commenting on the appeal.

   

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