KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A veteran lieutenant with the Knoxville Police Department has been fired and captain suspended by Chief of Police Paul Noel. The termination followed an Internal Affairs Unit investigation and pre-disciplinary hearing on July 18.

In an internal email acquired by WATE 6 On Your Side, Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel says a veteran lieutenant with the department had been found in violation of KPD’s truthfulness policy, leading to his termination from his position.

In addition to the lieutenant’s firing, Chief Noel’s internal email goes on to state that a Command Staff member within the department has been suspended for 10 days. Noel called these actions a decision he made with “great thought and consideration.”

An 11-page summary of an Internal Affairs investigation explains what led to the disciplinary action.

Michael Earlywine

Lt. Michael Earlywine was terminated after an Internal Affairs investigation determined he violated the department’s truthfulness policy and failed to properly report harassment complaints.

The investigative summary states that in 2020, VRT [Violence Reduction Team] officers reported to Earlywine that Officer Adam Broome had created a hostile work environment and had made racist comments in the VRT squad bay to Officer Diondré Jackson, who is Black. Those alleged comments referenced slavery and reparations, according to the report.

Broome resigned and left KPD in July 2020 during an investigation into the incident. That initial investigation led to VRT Sgt. Nick Lockmiller being suspended one day for failing to take action regarding the hostile workplace allegations while Earlywine, Captain Don Jones and Deputy Chief Kenny Miller were exonerated.

A new Internal Affairs investigation was opened in 2021 to investigate if Earlywine, Jones and Miller were untruthful in sworn statements they gave during the original investigation.

Earlywine made a sworn statement to Internal Affairs in 2020 that he had spoken with the officers who reported the racist remarks and “none of ’em could ever tell me what what was said that he [Jackson] got upset about.” Then again, in 2021, Earlywine denied being told anything about a “racial, racist comment.” Earlywine also said Jackson never told him anything about the comment.

Internal Affairs investigation

A polygraph test was inconclusive, the report states.

Earlywine is now found to have been untruthful, according to a summary of the Internal Affairs investigation.

Don Jones

The report also states that Earlywine mishandled the complaints in that he failed to contact Civil Service, the City Law Department or the Internal Affairs Unit when he received the original claims of harassment, as KPD General Orders and City of Knoxville Administrative Rules instruct.

Captain Don Jones is under suspension by Chief Noel for also failing to follow proper procedure on notifications following a harassment complaint.

“Captain Jones in his 2021 statement admitted discussing the issues, to include the racial comment/bad joke and giving Officer Jackson two options, notifying IAU [Internal Affairs Unit] or let him [Jones] handle it. He advised, and Jackson confirmed that Jackson accepted the proposal of Jones handling it,” the Internal Affairs summary report states.

Per KPD General Orders and Knoxville City Administrative Rules, supervisors are not to resolve complaints of harassment related to race, sex, etc. So the investigation found that giving Jackson an option and then holding a meeting and not following proper procedure is a violation.

Accusations of untruthfulness against Deputy Chief Kenny Miller were not substantiated in the investigation, but there was evidence he failed to follow policy on reporting the situation as well. Miller retired in January after 30 years in law enforcement.

“… leaving Miller’s explanation plausible that he did not know about the racial component, backing his description of the problem being “interpersonal issues with officers” and that Captain Jones told him he was handling it.”

Earlywine was terminated and Jones suspended for 10 days following a hearing on July 18.

‘A higher standard’

“We can recover from most mistakes, take the appropriate action and move forward,” Chief Noel stated 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.”

Chief Noel also added that accountability starts with him and that he expects the same level of accountability from the Command Staff.

“Command Staff members have the most responsibility, and therefore the greatest level of influence over the direction of our department,” he stated. “Because of that, I expect more of them and will hold them to a higher standard.”

Knoxville Police is dealing with other disciplinary actions and resignations amongst staff, including the DUI arrest of a KPD officer in Jefferson County, the investigation of a former KPD officer who resigned in April after pleading guilty to tampering with government records; plus the recent resignation of an officer who had been behind the wheel of a KPD cruiser when he collided with another car and killed the other driver while responding to a burglary call.

Chief Noel was sworn in on June 13, 2022. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon had announced in April that Noel was chosen and would replace outgoing Eve Thomas, who announced her retirement in November 2021.

On Tuesday, the City of Knoxville released the following statement from Mayor Kincannon:

“I fully support Chief Noel and the disciplinary actions taken following Monday’s proceedings. Every City employee, no matter their rank, must be held accountable for their conduct.”

— Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon

EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated to include details from an Internal Affairs report.