Traffic stop behavior earns demotion for 5 sheriff's officers

Traffic stop behavior earns demotion for 5 Knox County sheriff's officers

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Jason Acuff (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Jason Acuff (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Jeff Bryant (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Jeff Bryant (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Brad Cox (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Brad Cox (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Brian Rehg (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Brian Rehg (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Alex Slate (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Alex Slate (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones demoted five patrol officers and stripped them of their law enforcement powers over their behavior during a traffic stop, the sheriff's office announced Friday.

The five demoted deputies are:

  • Jason Acuff, 36, who was hired in 2006 and had been on patrol since 2009. His personnel file has several commendations and he 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. His personnel file has 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. Cox 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 has several commendation letters in his personnel file.
  • An investigation found the officers violated department policies and procedures during a traffic stop on October 16.

    The incident began at 12:56 a.m. when Deputy Rehg pulled over a car driven by a 19-year-old man, who asked to have his name withheld, on Emory Road.

    Other officers arrived at the scene, but the investigation found their actions were unauthorized and not approved. The sheriff's office didn't release a description of those actions.

    Videos from in-car cameras were examined and were provided to WATE for a review.

    The video shows an officer asking the driver to get out, and it appears they check to see if he had been drinking. Moments later, four more passengers are asked to get out of the vehicle. Officers could later be heard laughing and cursing, followed by one opening a cruiser's trunk and getting out what appeared to be a baseball bat. The officer can then be heard asking the driver if he'd be interested in proposition that would allow him to only get one ticket instead of three. The audio then goes dead.

    A complaint was made to the Office of Professional Standards. It was taken by Lt. Heather Gilbert. The sheriff's office doesn't say who made the complaint.

    When officials learned one of the deputies is Brad Cox, whose father Capt. Tom Cox oversees the Office of Professional Standards, the complaint was forwarded to Lt. Mark Webber of the Major Crimes Unit to investigate.

    Investigators said the videos did not provide any additional information since the officers admitted their involvement from the initial investigation.

    "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 in a press release.

    "I am releasing this information before any media inquiries because I think it's important for us to be open and honest," the sheriff added.

    Sheriff's officials wouldn't comment on camera about the actions of the officers or say whether any criminal charges are pending.

    Sheriff Jones sent a letter to each of the deputies that says:

    "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."

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