published Friday, June 28th, 2013

Former Chattanooga police officers take stand to plead for jobs

Former Chattanooga police officer Sean Emmer testifies during a hearing to appeal his and Adam Cooley's termination Thursday in the Chattanooga City Council room of City Hall. Emmer and Cooley were terminated in November after their involvement in the beating of Adam Tatum last June.
Former Chattanooga police officer Sean Emmer testifies during a hearing to appeal his and Adam Cooley's termination Thursday in the Chattanooga City Council room of City Hall. Emmer and Cooley were terminated in November after their involvement in the beating of Adam Tatum last June.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
WHAT’S NEXT

The appeal hearing for Emmer and Cooley will resume July 3. Scheduled witnesses include training officer Philip McClain, Sgt. Michael Wenger and former Bravo officer Latoya Tate.

Administrative Law Judge Kim Summers will have 15 days to issue an initial order and up to 60 days for a final decision. Attorneys for either side may appeal to Hamilton County Chancery Court.

Two former Chattanooga officers denied in testimony Thursday they used excessive force when they arrested a federal inmate at a halfway house last year.

Adam Tatum, 37, had blackened eyes, a broken nose, and had eight breaks to his legs including a compound fracture.

About a dozen officers responded to the June 14, 2012, call at some point, but Officers Adam Cooley and Sean Emmer -- who video shows landed the most blows on Tatum -- were fired.

"Like I told Mr. Tatum in the hospital, 'I hate things transpired that way. I have nothing against you. Everything is a reaction to what you gave me,'" Cooley said during the second day of testimony.

Both former officers are appealing their termination this week before an administrative law judge from Nashville. The case will continue Wednesday.

Tatum had cocaine in his system and was causing a disorder at the Salvation Army halfway house on McCallie Avenue. He brandished a knife at another inmate.

Emmer was one of the first responding officers. He struck Tatum 44 times with a metal baton and also placed him in a chokehold, according to testimony.

In a "use of force" report, Emmer said he struck Tatum "several" times with a baton.

"I don't know an exact number for several," Emmer said.

Attorneys for the officers argued that police personnel are not given any limit on how many times they can strike someone.

Emmer went through the Chattanooga Police Academy in 2008. Training footage was shown of him being sprayed with OC spray and ordered to perform police maneuvers such as hitting a pad and handcuffing someone.

  • Surveillance video shows savage beating by Chattanooga police
    Surveillance video from the Salvation Army on McCallie Avenue shows two Chattanooga police officers using excessive force on an inmate. Adam Tatum, 37, suffered six fractures to his right leg and two fractures to his left leg, including a compound fracture, when police took him into custody after a disorder.
Poll
Should the cops involved in the Salvation Army beating get their jobs back?

Stevie Phillips, one of Emmer's attorneys, asked if he was told to only hit a certain number of times.

Emmer said he was told to hit until the suspect complies. He said Tatum never complied.

Former Chattanooga Deputy Chief Mike Williams was hired as an expert for the city. He reviewed the case and determined that Emmer used excessive force.

"I just didn't see any justification with the baton strikes. The man was lying there begging," Williams said.

Even if officers aren't told how many times they can strike, they should use "reasonable" judgment when using force, he said. Officers should consider factors such as size, gender and physical condition.

"I've never seen one go on this long and one with that many blows," Williams said. "If a technique is not working, you have to deviate and go to something else."

He also said officers could have handcuffed Tatum much earlier, before so much force was used. Officers said Tatum was strong and batons, Tasers, OC spray and punches didn't seem to faze him.

Cooley, who after a few tries rolled Tatum over with other officers to handcuff him, said he was trained to take suspects into custody as soon as possible during fights to minimize injuries to everyone.

Cooley said no one told him punches to the face were prohibited. He said he and other officers have punched suspects in the face before and were never disciplined by the department.

Cooley said Tatum's head was not on the ground when he punched him 11 times.

"You cannot see where the head is in the video," Cooley said. "He was almost sitting up a little bit."

Phil Noblett, a city attorney, provided a copy of a test for use of force that Cooley took in the academy. Cooley made a 100 on the test. One question addressed strikes to the head as lethal.

Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd said Cooley was remorseful about punching Tatum during the disciplinary hearing.

When Cooley took the stand, he said another member of the department told him, "Go in there and throw yourself on the sword with humility. That might save your job."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

advertisement
advertisement
400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.