published Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Decade of records document Cleveland police misconduct

The Cleveland Police Department building is on Second Street.
The Cleveland Police Department building is on Second Street.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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Firing of Cleveland Detective Upheld

A judge has upheld the firing of former Cleveland, Tenn., police detective Duff Brumley last year.

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge W. Neil Thomas, acting as special judge in the case, said Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel had adequate evidence to uphold Brumley’s termination in August 2010.

Brumley had called the firing arbitrary and capricious, but Thomas ruled Nov. 29 that the record showed testimony supported the charges that led to his removal.

It was at a Nov. 17 hearing in the Brumley case that a witness said Cleveland police brass had heard of possible immoral and illegal conduct among some officers, including sex with underage girls, snorting crushed hydrocodone pills, porn on city cellphones and other offenses.

Cleveland police have said there was "no proof" that officers in 2008 were abusing prescription pills and having sex with underage girls before an investigation began late in the year.

But police department records show that one of the Cleveland officers now serving a prison term for two statutory rapes in 2008 and 2009 was known to be dallying with a teenage girl 10 years ago.

Files also document substance abuse by the officer, Nathan Thomas, in 2005 and 2007.

Another officer involved in the 2008 investigation, Dennis Hughes, was investigated twice in late 2007 for domestic altercations and harassing phone calls to a former girlfriend. The file notes that Hughes was intoxicated both times and when investigators came to question him.

Thomas never was disciplined beyond counseling. Hughes was given three days off for harassment, records show. Hughes later told TBI investigators that he had been addicted to hydrocodone pills since 2006, and Thomas confessed to pill addiction.

A third officer, Lt. Jeremy Noble, who was not involved in the 2008 case, was named in 2003 and 2004 reports saying he tried to date students while working as a school resource officer at Cleveland High School; that he left campus with a girl at least three times; and that he propositioned a Lee University student.

In 2009, Noble was demoted and suspended without pay after he confessed to having three sexual affairs while on duty.

Cleveland city officials, including City Manager Janice Casteel and Mayor Tom Rowland, have not returned calls seeking comment over almost two weeks.

In the beginning

Such activities by Cleveland officers returned to public attention in November, when Assistant Police Chief Gary Hicks testified that officers were warned in May 2008 against "dating minors, porn on city-owned phones, consumption of alcoholic beverages while off-duty, snorting crushed pills [and] oral sex in public" and other misbehavior, according to a memo on Cleveland Police Department stationery.

Hicks was testifying in a lawsuit filed by a Cleveland detective who had been fired.

Police Chief Wes Snyder said that allegations about such activities weren't specific enough to investigate the officers' conduct.

But in November 2008, Hughes accidentally shot another officer in the hand and the ensuing investigation uncovered prescription pill abuse. In January 2008, another investigation began when a 15-year-old runaway was found with Hughes and told police that two other teen girls were involved with the adult police officers.

Thomas pleaded guilty to having sex with 14- and 16-year-old girls as well as drug and forgery charges. Hughes pleaded guilty to statutory rape and aggravated assault.

When the mother of the 15-year-old tried to draw attention to Hughes' conduct in May 2008, her complaint was not written down or investigated, which department policy requires.

"We teach people to trust teachers and trust law enforcement, and when they violate that trust, what do you do?" the mother said in an interview last week. Her name is not being revealed to protect her daughter's identity.

Snyder said last week his office "acted appropriately and transparently" in the 2008 investigation.

Asked if his officers did everything they were required to do under department policy and their oaths as police officers, Snyder said in an email: "If the young ladies [sic] mother wants to file a complaint on them, I will review it and deal with it transparently and within the Cities [sic] policy and state law."

Officer Nathan Thomas

Police records provided to the Times Free Press listed only two incidents for Hughes, both related to domestic incidents with a former girlfriend.

Four internal charges were brought against Thomas in August 2001, after a Cleveland woman said he had been dating her and giving her alcohol since 1999 when she was 18 and he was 28. According to police records, the girl broke off the relationship with the married Thomas when she caught him with yet another woman.

One count, conduct unbecoming an officer, was sustained, but nothing in the documents provided under the state's Open Records Law show Thomas being given any punishment.

He was reprimanded in December 2004 after police found him at home when he was supposed to be working. In February 2005, an internal investigation noted he was coming to work late and leaving early. Confronted with suspicions of alcohol abuse, Thomas confessed and said he would handle the problem.

In June 2007, his file shows a counseling session with Snyder and noting that domestic incidents at his home required police response five times since 2001.

Snyder wrote that "I informed Thomas that I was becoming weary of dealing with his personal problems and that this behavior could not continue. I told him if he could not correct these issues in his personal life more severe disciplinary measures will be taken."

Lt. Jeremy Noble

Files show three incidents for Noble, who was Snyder's brother-in-law and wasn't connected to the 2008 investigation into the accidental shooting.

In 2003, Cleveland High School Principal Chuck Rockholt told police that female students allegedly had complained to a school board member that Noble was trying to date girls at the school.

No formal compliant was filed. Schools Superintendent Rick Denning told police he didn't think the allegations were credible and he wouldn't reveal the board member's name.

The same report documents that Noble left the high school campus at least three times with a girl. The report said he took her to a DARE program, to pick up his wife's car at the mechanic and to observe his wife teaching a class at another school. The girl's statement wasn't in the package of records given to the Times Free Press.

On Friday, Snyder said the girl was a baby sitter and no misconduct ever was alleged. Snyder then was the captain over the criminal investigation division and had responsibility for internal affairs investigations.

He said in an email Friday that he didn't remember whether he or Lt. Ken Simpson investigated the Noble case and there's no name listed on the internal affairs investigator's notes.

In 2004, a mother reported to police that Noble propositioned her daughter, a Lee University student. This was one day after Noble reported that the young woman propositioned him while he was interviewing her over a harassment complaint she had filed against a fellow student. No formal complaint was filed.

And in 2009, Noble admitted that he had had three sexual affairs -- including one with the wife of a fellow officer -- while on duty.

Noble was cited for immoral conduct, dereliction of duty, misuse of city property and falsification of documents. He was reduced in rank from lieutenant to sergeant, given 10 days off without pay, lost use of his city car for 20 days and was required to serve a year on disciplinary probation.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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inquiringmind said...

fox guarding the hen house...

December 11, 2011 at 8:21 a.m.
Fuzzy said...

welcome to Cleveland

December 11, 2011 at 10:06 a.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

In your second paragraph Ms. Walton you say "dallying with teenage girls," are you saying or incenuating an underage girl or an adult girl that was teenage? If you are talking about an adult girl that was teenage, then where is the crime? Your reporting is misleading and innacurate. You are leading the public to believe something that is not so. This article is full of misleading excerpts from different sources to slander a department that has weeded out and convicted its bad apples. You distort the truth like the enquirer.

December 11, 2011 at 11:02 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Were it ONLY the CPD that has serious issues, TN would be a great place to live. Same can be said for AG's and others in legal systems in TN. I would guess from various records and folks we spoke with, 50% of more of AG, Courts and Cops are dirty, Worse part is if records checked, the cops get "let go"in one area, and are hired by another. But with what they are paid, education/training requirements, we get what we pay for, in more then one sense of the term. Massive cleanup needed in politics, courts and cops, lower to top. Even worse in the more rural areas as they are ruled on nearly "ole family and friends" nearly religious sect and/or tribal rules.

December 11, 2011 at 11:17 a.m.
Lr103 said...

If you check closely enough, there's decades of misconduct in all these police departments. Rarely if ever is anything done about it. They're most likely to go after the citizen that files a complaint that deal with the corrupt officers.

December 11, 2011 at 2:03 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Kulgopher, I believe the reporter is accurate. Ages are given which are underage minors, not teenage adults. I've read all of the police reports she refers to and I don't believe she misleads. The timeline is very clear. CPD failed to open an investigation and completely dropped the ball.

December 11, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
patriot1 said...

The writer states that Detective Jeremy Noble "was" the brother-in-law of Chief Snyder. If I am not mistaken Mr. Noble is the brother of Melissa Snyder, the chief's wife. BTW, Melissa is a Lifestyles writer for the Cleveland Daily Banner, which may help explain the coverage this has received in Cleveland. An interesting article by Mrs. Snyder:

December 11, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
Lr103 said...

What police department doesn't these situations take place, where the department covers for them? I can't think of any.

Try this:

A Florida newspapers several months and years long investigation into Florida police abuses, misconduct and corruption

December 11, 2011 at 2:19 p.m.
Abe said...

Actions the chief should make: (a) Resign. (b) Apologize to the people of Cleveland. (c) Apologize to the reporters at the Times Free Press.

December 11, 2011 at 3:44 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

lookinfour said...

Kulgopher, I believe the reporter is accurate. Ages are given which are underage minors, not teenage adults. I've read all of the police reports she refers to and I don't believe she misleads. The timeline is very clear. CPD failed to open an investigation and completely dropped the ball.

The article is innacurate and so are you lookinfour. The second paragraph is referring to Nathan Thomas and his affair ten years earlier with an adult teen. No evidence of underage minors were known until the Dec. 2008, investigation. Walton and the Times are trying to spin that evidence was known before that investigation, INNACURATE.

Thomas was guilty of a crime in late 2008, not ten years earlier, as you report. YOU READ SIDEWAYS.

December 11, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Kulgolfer, come on. Do a little research before you post. You said...."No evidence of underage minors were known until the Dec 2008 investigation". Really? What about the internal memo from May 29, 2008 where Asst Chief Hicks held a meeting with certain officers and supervisors regarding, and I quote from his memo "dating minors". I believe that meeting was way before any investigation. The top brass had information at least by then but buried their heads in the sand. This memo is from the police department, not dreamt up by this newspaper. It's in black and white where they acknowledge there was information that officers were having inappropriate relationships with MINORS. Here it is if you want to dispute.

December 11, 2011 at 5:52 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

...Listen, Lookingfourajob! How well do you research? Could that memo, hmmmm maybe have been referring to a 19 year old officer dating a 17 year old? Again, is that illegal? Hmmmm! What do you think? INNACCURATE!

December 11, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
lookinfour said...

No, that memo wouldn't be referring to a 19 year old dating a 17 year old. A police officer for the City of Cleveland has to be 21 years of age. So, no. And all of those in attendance at that meeting were over 21. Also, the Asst Chief wouldn't tell a room full of officers to stop dating minors if it wasn't innappropriate. The TBI investigation definitely proved that crimes were occurring.

December 11, 2011 at 6:14 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

I think you need to research more. You are wrong again.

December 11, 2011 at 6:27 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

The Cleveland Police Department did hire officers under 21, your facts are wrong

December 11, 2011 at 6:37 p.m.
patriot1 said...

Since there were no accusations made at the May 29, 2008 meeting, just warnings about behavior unbecoming of a police officer, I wonder why Jeremy Noble was not included in this meeting? He had been accused of similar behavior before. This tells me this meeting was very specific and focused on certain individuals and known all the way to the top.

December 11, 2011 at 6:39 p.m.
lookinfour said...

I agree patriot1. You don't just group select officers together for a meeting without having some sort of information that is specific enough for the selection. These guys were ordered to attend the meeting because the information the brass had at the time says they were involved. Call it rumors, tips, department gossip, or whatever, they had information that should have led to an investigation to either confirm or squash. They did nothing.

December 11, 2011 at 7:18 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

The Enquirer might want to investigate that further also...You wouldn't think that this newspaper would allow a story to be twisted and turned like this one has just because Todd South befriended Duff Brumley during his investigation of the Valentine's Day Murder's. Now this paper is trying to salvage some sense of honest journalism ethic by revealing every disciplinary action ever issued by the Cleveland Police Department. The Cleveland Police Department has levied every discipline allowed by policy and law. Research it, and report all the facts, not just those that create a biased opinion.

December 11, 2011 at 7:20 p.m.
patriot1 said... are qualifications for police officer

but don't let the facts get in your way!!

December 11, 2011 at 7:39 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

That is policy of today, not 2008, research, research, research...

December 11, 2011 at 7:41 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Doesn't really matter what the age requirement of a Cleveland Police officer was back in 2008. The point is every one of the officers in that meeting was an adult. The allegations were inappropriate relations with minors. As the facts showed with the Dec 2008 TBI investigation, those minors were 16 years old and under. That's called a felony crime

Mr. Kulgolfer, please post the link you must have for the 2008 police hiring policy. I'd like to read your research. I'm going to assume that you don't have this information and that you're going to post some excuse or reasoning for not having.

December 11, 2011 at 7:58 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

You lied. You said Cleveland Police were not under 21 years of age and gave a link to a city website that was not up in 2008. In December 2008, the Chief's Requested TBI investigation revealed that ANOTHER incident into itself had been revealed. Twist some more.

December 11, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Lol. No lie. I was saying it makes no difference in the number. An adult is an adult by the law. So the Dec. 2008 investigation had different victims than the alleged juvenile victims as referred to I the May 29th memo? That doesn't make your case. Please point us to your proof that police officers in 2008 were 19 years old.

December 11, 2011 at 8:26 p.m.

Nowfedup and Lr103 hit the mark with a bulls-eye when describing Cleveland, Tennessee. Despite all the religiosity abounding, Cleveland is one of the dirtiest cities ever. As they say, "the police and courts are as good as money can buy." Want whores, rent-boys, drugs, try Tinsley and other city parks. Police do nothing about it -- nor do the citizens of Cleveland want seem to want it cleaned up. Chattanooga polices the rich and avoids the projects while Cleveland police unfairly pick on the poor while ignoring the rich.

December 11, 2011 at 8:54 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

You are wrong by saying "An adult is an adult by the law." Especially when you apply it to 19 year old males dating 17 year old females, police or not. Research T.C.A. code

lookinfour said... As the facts showed with the Dec 2008 TBI investigation, those minors were 16 years old and under.Emphasis

Yes, the December 2008 investigation that Chief Snyder requested revealed that. But your reporting emplies that prior to that, the 14 and 16 year olds were known to the department as victims, and that is false reporting. It is not true.

Detective Jackson's failure to investigate the report from the mother is another indication that she failed to handle crucial evidence.

Did Detective Jackson file a report?

You reported that she is a 19 year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department.

Where does the burden lie?

December 11, 2011 at 8:56 p.m.
lookinfour said...

I don't know if the police chief knew how old the minors were back in May 2008. He never did an investigation to find out. He has publicly said that he only had rumors, not enough to investigate. I thought rumors would cause an investigation but it didn't. So kulgolfer, if the minors were legally able to carry on relationships with these police officers, so you've implied, why would the Chief put them on notice not to have such relationships? You don't make sense.

December 11, 2011 at 9:08 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...


December 11, 2011 at 9:16 p.m.
Fuzzy said...

ANY Police Chief with an ounce of administrative skills would have launched an investigation into the "rumors" of wrongdoing as soon as he heard them. It is the proper and appropriate thing to do ... if HE heard the rumors, so did some of the citizens in the community, and he should have immediately begun a real investigation to prove the rumors one way or the other. It is quite obvious he had reason to believe the officers were involved in wrongdoing, and he was giving them a "warning" that they might be heading for trouble, when, in fact, they were already in deep doo doo. It is an attempt at a cover up, pure and dimple, but it has backfired.

December 11, 2011 at 10:04 p.m.
Hanes said...

Is this story about the Chief Wes Snyder that stood up and read a statement to the media the day after the original story and said that no one at the "administrative level", including himself had any knowledge of the officers illegal activities prior to December of 2008 only to have a memo surface the following day showing he had lied to the public the day before? Is this the same Chief Wes Snyder that was found to have lied under oath in 2007? Now really, outside of a few individuals that follow him blindly, does anyone believe anything he say?

December 11, 2011 at 10:12 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

One last post...

No. 1. You say, "I don't know if the police chief knew how old the minors were back in May 2008." You're finally right, you don't know.

Lets clarify, The Police Chief was approached by the Assistant Chief about rumors.

No. 2. You say "minors...back in May 2008"

You make it plural, like more than one minor. Was there more than one minor in question in May 2008? Were there any MINORS in question at that time that would lead the Police Chief to launch an investigation other than an inquisition? Other than a rumor brought to him by his Assistant Chief about a 19 year old officer dating a 17 year old female?

I ask you...

You are trying to connect a rumored 17 year old female dating a 19 year old police officer relationship, who was warned by the assistant chief about relations with underage people, with two convicted police officers of another crime at another time.


December 11, 2011 at 10:12 p.m.
lookinfour said...

I said minors, as in plural, because that is what asst chief hicks memo from May 29th said.

Kulgolfer, please tell us all which officer that was present at the May 29th meeting, was 19 years old, and the person who was apparently having a relationship with the 17 year old. Just so you have the names, here's the memo link again. Thanks.

December 11, 2011 at 10:26 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

Sorry, one more statement:

You answered the first question. Thanks. He was speaking to a group.

Now...How about the other two questions??? Are you gonna answer?

December 11, 2011 at 11:55 p.m.
kulgolfer_2 said...

....Check your inside will be wrong also.

December 11, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.
lookinfour said...

There must have been "minors in question" otherwise it wouldn't have been brought up at the meeting. Specific names and further details would have only been brought out had there been an investigation. The meeting didn't mention a 19/17 year old relationship. So who at this meeting was the 19 year old officer?

December 12, 2011 at 12:30 a.m.
lookinfour said...

Kulgolfer....who at this meeting on May 29th was the 19 year old officer the Asst Chief was referring to as "dating minors"? You answering this will solve all. You say you know, so put it out there...

December 12, 2011 at 12:34 a.m.
boxingbuffalo said...

It seems to me that like, Chief Snyder, kulgolfer is trying to obsfucate the central issue with nit-picking facts. The basic fact is that these officers were having sex with children and the Chief Snyder covered for them until it was impossible to cover any more. I am alarmed that Noble was allowed near a school and more alarmed that complaints against him were ignored and downplayed by both the CPD and especially by the school superintendent Rick Denning! What decent person could not be horrified? kulgolfer, I find that the facts reported by the TFP have been accurate and plain. These facts tell a story that is both chilling and disappointing. The children of Cleveland TN have been placed in the care of immoral men and the protectors look the other way as they are victimized. Are you so callous that this does not break your heart?

December 12, 2011 at 7:59 a.m.
boxingbuffalo said...

The City council appoints the City Manager, Janice Casteel. Janice Casteel is Chief Snyder's boss. Who can demand a proper investigation? City Councilmen Charlie McKensie, Bill Estes, Avery Johnson, David May Jr, Dale Hughes, George Poe Jr, and Richard Banks. Janice Casteel won't do it because she doesn't (and won't) answer to the people of Cleveland. Call the Councilmen and demand an investigation. I cannot believe that Bill Estes and Dale Hughes will let this be swept under the rug. Estes works with young people at Lee University and Hughes was the principal at Bradley County HS for years.

December 12, 2011 at 8:47 a.m.
Burgess said...

I’m astounded by this reporting! I have only once before seen so much innuendo and outright lies strung together so out of context that it makes its own story, solely for the sake of hurting people and improving readership. Shame on you TFP.

December 12, 2011 at 7:18 p.m.
patriot1 said...

boxingbuffalo...I recall all the arguments years ago for the city manager style of government in Cleveland vs. what was in place. This type of government was supposed replace the ole "good ole boy" network and cronyism that existed....Hmmmmm, how'd that work out? Janice Casteel is a weak sister who struggled as city clerk and has no business in the city manager position. She could care less what people think and the police department is not the only dept that needs some attention. The Public Works dept needs to be examined as well....a lot of people have been complaining lately about all the flooding and water runoff issues...but nothing gets done.

December 12, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Innuendos? It's clear black and white Burgess, on city letterhead.

December 12, 2011 at 8:36 p.m.
Early_Grayce said...

Newsflash! Cleveland Police will not investigate a report of crime, you must now have evidence before they will spring into action.

December 12, 2011 at 9:47 p.m.
Burgess said...

lookinfour, I saw the link you put up for the memo. That is a good example for the innuendo and out of context I was talking about.

December 13, 2011 at 6:30 a.m.
Gator said...

For all of you that are involved in the banter with kulgolfer_2, you are missing an important point. MANY of his comments are made from a PERSONAL perspective containing information only an insider would possess. He's one of THEM! Don't waste your time or energy arguing with him. You can't win.

December 13, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.
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