published Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Red Bank officer fired

Two suspended over search warrant case


by Chris Carroll

An outside investigation commissioned by Red Bank provided more than enough Fourth Amendment fodder to fire a police corporal and suspend two other officers, according to City Manager Chris Dorsey.

On Monday, Dorsey terminated Cpl. Rebecca Chauncey for allowing a bail bondsman to force his way into an elderly couple's home as he looked for someone who missed a court date -- all without a search warrant, consent or life-or-death circumstances.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits "unreasonable" searches and requires signed warrants supported by probable cause.

"[Chauncey] stated that [bondsmen] have more authority than she does, that they don't have to have a warrant," according to an investigation conducted by Tellico Resolution Group.

The report acknowledges that bounty hunters work under different regulations, but those regulations "never authorize a police officer ... to ignore constitutional law."

For their roles in the same incident, Officer Bradley Hanon and Officer Eric Massengale were suspended without pay for 30 calendar days.

In August, Chauncey and Hanon filed separate $1.5 million lawsuits against Red Bank alleging misconduct by their superiors. Both have said Dorsey used the bondsman incident as an excuse to retaliate, a charge the city manager denied again Monday.

Before the Nov. 16 search, a bondsman told the officers about a search warrant, according to the report.

"Officer Massengale stated he recalled the word 'warrant' being mentioned, but that he didn't see one nor check if there was one," the report states.

"Bondsmen have more leeway when it comes to executing warrants since they have a monetary interest in the person," Hanon told investigators.

But while Dorsey and the investigators blame the officers, Chauncey faults the city's police leadership for never teaching her about chain of command as it relates to bounty hunters.

"There's nothing at the Red Bank Police Department about how to deal with other agencies and bondsmen," Chauncey said. "I'm a supervisor, and I haven't had any training."

In her lawsuit, Chauncey criticized getting training from her supervisors for a previous policy infraction.

After the officers and two bondsmen gained entry into Lloyd and Odalie Gray's 113 Greenleaf St. home -- the couple were at a church function as the search occurred -- Chauncey asked Red Bank Fire Department personnel to break open a door blocked by guns and ammunition, the report states.

"[You] did not question the concept of Red Bank Fire Department personnel being placed in an apparent situation of grave danger when you ... thought that an armed person was barricaded behind the door," Dorsey's suspension letter to Hanon and Massengale states.

As part of the report's conclusion, the investigators scold the officers for allowing bondsmen "to have greater authority than them when they are present representing themselves as police officers."

But when investigators asked Chauncey whether she thought about questioning the bondsman, she replied that "everything happened so quickly."

She and Hanon plan to appeal Dorsey's decision "all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court," according to a text message sent by Hanon.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.

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GeorgiaRebel said...

Cops routinely ignore 4th, 1st, and 5th Amendment protections. Just look at how the TSA operates on a daily basis to see how widespread the practice of trampling on our Constitutional protections has become.

December 21, 2010 at 12:49 a.m.
harrystatel said...

"[Chauncey] stated that [bondsmen] have more authority than she does, that they don't have to have a warrant," according to an investigation conducted by Tellico Resolution Group."

"Chauncey faults the city's police leadership for never teaching her about chain of command as it relates to bounty hunters."

"There's nothing at the Red Bank Police Department about how to deal with other agencies and bondsmen," Chauncey said. "I'm a supervisor, and I haven't had any training."

But when investigators asked Chauncey whether she thought about questioning the bondsman, she replied that "everything happened so quickly."

WANTED: Police Officers who understand the Constitution, State and Federal laws, not blame others for their mistakes, and able to think quickly. Apply everywhere!

December 21, 2010 at 11:05 a.m.
MountainFire said...

this is pure retaliation against Chauncey. she has a 1.5 million dollar lawsuit against the city along with Officer Hanon. Massengale doesn't have a lawsuit against the city. well now, that's interesting only the two who have lawsuits against the city got termination hearings. Massengale got a written reprimand. he stood by while the bondsman kicked down that door just like Chauncey and Hanon. Oh and by the way, Fireman's lives are put in danger EVERY DAY ON EVERY SINGLE CALL. This is no different. Just going on a basic medical call they have no idea what they're going to run into. a fugitive could be in the house that they go to a heart attack call on. They run into burning buildings to protect YOUR property.

December 21, 2010 at 12:22 p.m.

I'm just wondering how many other citizens these rogue cops have done this too, and the only difference is this time they were caught. Now, Chauncey is whining about being fired right at Christmas time? The claiming she was never properly trained? That's bullSHEETE! Some things don't require training, just common sense. If you don't have common sense along with your training you don't deserve the honor of being a police officer, serving and protecting the citizens.

December 21, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.

MountainFire, maybe what you say has some merit. However, Chauncey was the person in charge. She failed at that role. Civics was taught in junior high school. The Constitution and citizens' rights aren't merely for rocket scientist. It's quite basic and elementary for everyone, even a junior high school student. Whether Chauncey was properly schooled or not is no excuse. As it only requires basic common sense.

December 21, 2010 at 12:52 p.m.
MountainFire said...

Chauncey is right though MaxiMillian_Lapre, Departments are supposed to have SOP(standard operating procedure) for dealing with situations such as this. and according to her they do NOT have one. Dealing with a bondsman when you are a cop is not a common sense issue. they have different privileges than police officers do. if the department doesn't have SOP on how to deal with bondsman then what is she supposed to do? please tell me that. She's not whining about being fired at Christmastime. that's not the issue here with her firing. She is claiming retaliation for uncovering issues within the RBPD. such as the female officer who had an affair and pulled over a man out of her district for DUI and was never reprimanded for it. please understand the issue before attempting to comment on it.

December 21, 2010 at 1:03 p.m.

MountainFire, I think we all understand the issue and the likelihood RBPD is retaliating. Still, the bottom line is the police was involved in a possible crime. They should have known better. When the judge states to the average citizen "ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law" it should more so apply to police officers.

December 21, 2010 at 1:13 p.m.
MountainFire said...

MaxiMillian if you understood the issue then why the comment of "Now, Chauncey is whining about being fired right at Christmas time?". you are incorrect. and its not just RBPD its the city itself. Dorsey is the city manager and is in her lawsuit against the city, do you think its right that he gets to fire her while he's in the middle of a lawsuit with her? because I certainly see that as a conflict of interest on his part. He wants her gone because she has a legitimate case against him and the police department.

December 21, 2010 at 1:21 p.m.
harrystatel said...

This incident is not about her lawsuit. This is about a police supervisor's incompetence. If this is the best she can do (and apparently it is), she should be fired.

If she didn't have a lawsuit against the city, would you still defend her ignorance?

Harry Statel

December 21, 2010 at 2 p.m.
noapathy said...

With or without SOP, She swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution...passing blame such as I wasn't trained on this...doesn't quite get her off the hook. She might not have been trained but it's a technicality when there is proof of the resident's rights being violated. She should have known better on her own. It was a mistake and I know she wish she could take it back but I bet she won't ever do it again....and going back over some constitutional law might not be a bad idea for her either. My thought was that RB might have put these particular officers in that situation, it was a mightly coincidence but if they did set them up...she failed their test with flying colors. It's exactly in a time like this (lawsuits) that she should have been watching her back at all times, critically thinking through every decision because she was fully aware it could be her last on behalf of RBPD. It's unfortunate but they got her and if it hadn't looked so bad, they would've fired Hanon too. The attempt to appear fair and unbaised was feeble but still present.

December 21, 2010 at 2:40 p.m.
MountainFire said...

I see what you're saying noapathy but, bondsmen can do more than police officers. he called for backup fully believing a fugitive was in the house. that's his job, to catch fugitives and he has the right (if I'm correct) to break into private residences without a warrant if he believes a fugitive is present. They had the wrong address so that was a mistake but the house ended up being condemned because it was so terrible inside. If they had had the right address and a fugitive had been inside this wouldn't of been an issue. and you really think that they set these officers up for this? I highly doubt that they would've set these officers up in such a situation. and not having SOP on the issue doesn't fully release her but it does release quite a bit, if the city doesn't have SOP on such a basic thing as bondsmen then what else is missing? and since so much is obviously missing then that gives them free reign on most issues dealing with the department does it not?

December 21, 2010 at 3:42 p.m.
hambone said...

Does anyone know if ANYONE from The city of Red Bank has even said we're sorry to the family whose home was invaded by these idiots?

December 21, 2010 at 3:56 p.m.

They may not have SOPs at the department but they sure have some fancy and fast police cars!

December 21, 2010 at 4:03 p.m.
noapathy said...

If she wasn't sure, I'm thinking I would have had someone of higher rank to make the decision for me. I'm sure there was someone she could have called on for that definitive answer...Lt.Jay LeMance possibly. At least, that's what they will say. They've got their bases covered here. I'm not saying it was a set-up but the pieces couldn't have fell more perfectly for those wanting those officers to disappear before the lawsuits came full circle. What were the chances of these same exact officers being involved in a firable offense shortly after all of this with Sneed went down? Questionable at least. I think with the bondsmen issue, it has obviously been presented that they have more power than they do in the past and no one has questioned it until now. Everyone does need to be clear on what that protocol is exactly on their own, especially now that she's been made an example of. I wouldn't wait for SOP because it's not going to be much of a defense for anyone in the end. It would be interesting to see how many officers ARE clear on some of these things, they all may need to be trained or re-trained to prevent this from happening in the future....to anyone: citizen or officer. There shouldn't be free reign when you have the chain-of-command and it's being followed like it should. If she had done that, her supervisor would be on the block with her and he's not. If she accepts free reign, she accepts the punishment all by herself. That's just my opinion, I have no connection to these officers personally.

December 21, 2010 at 4:38 p.m.
harrystatel said...

Revenue Enhancement wins out. Instead of "Serve and Protect" it's "Observe and Collect."

December 21, 2010 at 4:39 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

I have not seen a good plain language explanation over how it is that police would stand by as a bail bondsman conducted a search.

What does this story mean that a bondsman has more latitude than the police to conduct a search? What? If so, how is that, and what does it mean? Have we empowered totally unaccountable people to carry out searches? If the bondsman was carrying out a search, and it was somehow allowed for the police to watch (what?), then how is it that the police are now being punished? And, why is one person in more trouble than the others?

I really would like to see more background information on the relationship between bondsmen and the police, in general, as a part of understanding the framework of this incident.

December 21, 2010 at 9:50 p.m.
SCOTTYM said...

"...he has the right (if I'm correct) to break into private residences without a warrant if he believes a fugitive is present."

Sounds like a mighty fine way to end up with; 1) a dead bondsman 2) multiple dead or injured police officers 3) a dead or injured innocent person defending their own home

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

ATTENTION JACK-BOOTED-THUGS!!!

If anyone kicks my door in, they had better be prepared to meet their maker. Police, or no.

All you have to do is knock, present a valid, correctly addressed warrant, and I'll show you around the place.

Kick in my door, you'd better be 100% bulletproof.

(I have no hate for the police. I've had pleasant interactions with a couple of the officers involved in this ordeal, and bear them no ill will.)

This whole deal stinks to high heaven.

No knock warrants serve only to endanger the officers and the public at home.

December 21, 2010 at 10:48 p.m.
honest1 said...

Well, harrystatel maybe you should know your facts before taking such a stand against this officer. During the investigation Lt. Lamance did not know what the rights bondsmen had. If the 2nd in command did not even know than how can you expect a cpl to know. Also Lt. Lamance has been with bondsmen in the same case as this, funny he still has a job. You want to question her incompetence, maybe you should question the entire department. Maybe you should really question how another female can arrest someone in Soddy when she works for Red Bank and delete reports to hide the truth. That was also a 4th ammendment violation, she is still working...What run ins I have had with Chauncey she has been educated, professional, and extremely helpful. She has always gone out of her way to help anyone of the citizens in Red Bank.

December 22, 2010 at 8:59 a.m.
MountainFire said...

THANK YOU honest1. finally someone with some sense is commenting on this story.

SCOTTYM Bondsmen have very large guns and don't always call police officers in. I honestly don't understand why he called them in this time but he did. And according to Officer Massengale the Bondsman stated he did have a warrant but that Massengale didn't see it nor did he ask to see it. as stated in the article.

"Before the Nov. 16 search, a bondsman told the officers about a search warrant, according to the report.

"Officer Massengale stated he recalled the word 'warrant' being mentioned, but that he didn't see one nor check if there was one," the report states."

so isn't some of this on his back too then? I don't see how its fair that only she gets the firing. is it because she is pointing out the obvious flaws in the city police department? thats what it would seem to be.

December 22, 2010 at 10:25 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for civilians, but somehow it's OK for law enforcement?

Sounds like a Homer Simpson defense. Doh!

December 22, 2010 at 11:51 a.m.
SCOTTYM said...

"SCOTTYM Bondsmen have very large guns..."

That's only effective against folks who do not keep their own boomsticks close at hand.

Kicking someone's door in does not put the kicker in a very palatable position from a tactical nor legal standpoint.

We have a pretty strong "castle doctrine" statute in this state. Forcibly break open someone's door, break the plane of the portal, and you are outside of bounds for folks who do not wish to be shoot.

The officers screwed up when they disregarded the homeowner's right to be free from "unreasonable search and seizure". All the rest is the poo they stepped in getting spread around.

It would seem "reasonable" to me for the officers to confirm the bondsman's claims. Even if he had a warrant to seize an individual, it would not confer the authority to go kicking doors in on houses where he "suspects" the fugitive may be. Surely the officers understand this.

Knocking on doors is a very smart thing to do. Kicking in doors is a very dumb thing to do.

IMHO

December 22, 2010 at 11:35 p.m.
noapathy said...

Amen, Harry! That is my point exactly. Just because you claim ignorance does not mean you get off the hook...it doesn't work like that for us and if they want her gone, it's not going to work for her either. I wish she still had a job too but you can't use that defense.

December 23, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.
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