ATHENS, Tenn. (WATE) — The City of Athens, Tennessee fired its police chief on Friday after he declined to resign from his position. No reason has been provided for the termination.
Cliff Couch was fired after four years as the Athens Police Chief. A city release said Couch was provided an opportunity to resign but he declined to do so.
Couch told Chattanooga ABC-affiliate WTVC that he was ‘shocked’ by what was presented to him on Friday, Oct. 8 and believes the dismissal was an act of retaliation for something he expressed concern about 8 months ago.
Couch said he believes the dismissal was an act of retaliation from City Manager Seth Sumner after he began sounding the alarm about missing surveillance cameras used for police investigations.
At an Aug. 10 city council meeting, city manager Seth Sumner can be heard saying, “the chief called the District Attorney, circumventing the proper process, chain of command and made allegations and began his own investigation.”
Sumner told WTVC that the missing cameras had nothing to do with his dismissal.
Lieutenant Fred Schultz has been named as the interim Police Chief after previously serving in the APD Special Services Division. The Athens native has served the City of Athens since 2004 and was employed by the McMinn County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years. He also served in the United States Marine Corps for six years.
“Our officers are resilient, and they want to do their job protecting the community,” Schultz said in a statement. “We are not going to dwell on this event, we are moving our department forward.”
A city spokesperson said no decision has been made on hiring a permanent replacement for Couch.
Couch had been appointed Police Chief of Athens in September 2017 after a nationwide recruitment effort. Couch, a native of Florida, previously served as police chief in Great Bend, Kansas and as police chief in Goodland, Kansas.
“The City Council and I firmly advocate for our law enforcement officers, the Police Department, and all of Team Athens. Now, more than ever, our officers need stability and leadership in support of their critical role of protecting our community. This change in leadership will afford our officers and the department a more stable and supporting environment.”Athens City Manager C. Seth Sumner
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