CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Was Bradley County Deputy Dallas Longwith mowing his lawn in his underwear?
The former court officer says no. But the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office dismissed Longwith late last year for “conduct unbecoming an officer,” Major Jim Hodgson said Thursday. The dismissal came after a second complaint was received about him mowing the yard in his underwear and after Longwith had been warned the first time, Hodgson said.
The second complaint came in the last month of 2011, but it’s unclear who made it.
“Who mows their yard in December?” Longwith asked.
No charges were filed against him, but the department asked the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to decertify Longwith as a police officer. The hearing was set for Thursday in Nashville, but the department withdrew its request.
Longwith said Thursday there is no reprimand or warning in his personnel file.
Hodgson said someone sent in a cellphone photo of Longwith mowing in his shorts.
“We do expect higher standards from anyone who is going to work for the sheriff’s department,” Hodgson said.
Longwith said he has “a pair of comfortable shorts that come to my knees” and wears them when he does yard work.
He said decertification is routine for anyone who leaves law enforcement. But in recent days, Hodgson said, the department received word that the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission likely would not decertify Longwith unless there was a criminal charge against him.
“But that being the case, I felt it would be a waste of the department’s time and the POST Commission’s time to continue this,” Hodgson said.
The dispute began in August 2011 with a neighbor’s complaint. Longwith said he knows the neighbor and that the man’s father knew Longwith was in law enforcement and asked him to keep an eye on the son, who has a criminal history.
State Rep. Eric Watson, a captain at the sheriff’s department at the time and Longwith’s immediate supervisor with the department’s court security office, investigated the first complaint.
“He was a well-respected officer,” Watson said Thursday. “There were no write-ups or reprimands in his file.”
Watson said the person making the complaint refused to come to the department and file a written statement.
Watson resigned from the department later in 2011 when Sheriff Jim Ruth questioned how much time the state representative was spending in Nashville.
For now, Longwith is cooking at a local restaurant and said he would he like to return to law enforcement.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...