East Ridge officers reprimanded for handling of domestic violence case

East Ridge officers reprimanded for handling of domestic violence case

November 9th, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Russell Kevin White

Russell Kevin White

The calls and text messages came in bunches, Jennifer Mara White said. It was her husband, as it had been so many times before.

So this time, on Feb. 5, she called East Ridge police. She said she had an order of protection against 41-year-old Russell Kevin White, who had assaulted her in September 2012.

Police came, but they did nothing. Just like in December, the first time Jennifer White told police her husband was violating the order. And just like they did in May, the third time.

She refused to be brushed off. It took complaints to the officers' supervisors and the East Ridge City Council, but two officers since have been disciplined for their lack of action in this case.

Under terms of the protection order, Russell White couldn't contact his wife or their 6- and 7-year-old daughters. That meant no face-to-face communication. No emails. And no phone calls or texts. According to Tennessee law, someone who violates such an order is subject to 12 hours in jail and can be also be held in contempt of court. This could mean additional jail time, or a fine, or both.

But when Cpl. Carl Ritchey responded to Jennifer's Feb. 5 call, he did not pursue Russell White. Ritchey said in his report that Jennifer White didn't want to press charges.

"Mrs. White just wants this on paper for her records," Ritchey wrote in his report.

Jennifer White, 28, said this is not true. She wanted him arrested.

"I'm afraid he's going to break in, come and hurt me," she said of Russell White, whom she divorced in May. "Maybe even kill me."

She had told officers in December that Russell called her four times one night. But, like the incident in February and another in May, the East Ridge officers who responded did not pursue Russell White, a former East Ridge sanitation employee.


Jennifer White met her husband in 2003, when she was 17 and he was 31. Russell was taking classes with Jennifer's mother, Teresa Crowe, at Miller-Motte Technical College. Looking back, Crowe says that Russell seemed rough.

But he soon began coming to Crowe's house with other students to do homework. He seemed nice, Jennifer White said. He encouraged her and gave her attention.

They got married soon after, and Jennifer gave birth to a pair of girls. But the love didn't last. In January 2012, they separated.

Nine months later, Russell White showed up to spend time with the girls. Jennifer said her husband was drunk, and they began to argue.

"He just snapped," she said.

According to an arrest report, Russell White grabbed Jennifer in the kitchen and threw her to the ground. She got up and tried to scamper away, but he grabbed her again, pinned her against a wall in the hallway to the children's bedroom and tossed her back on the floor.

Then, according to the report, he pressed her down with his forearm. He started to leave, but before he did, he seized Jennifer one last time and tossed her against the refrigerator.

That case is still pending. Contacted for this report, Russell White said the account is "extremely exaggerated."

Nevertheless, on Sept. 25, 2012, Jennifer White received an order of protection.

When she called police in December reporting Russell had called her four times, responding officer Cory Cleek didn't think Russell had violated the protection order.

"The order states that Mr. White can notify Mrs. White over the children," Cleek wrote in his report. But he was wrong. The protection order did not say Russell could contact his wife about the children.

Cleek has not been disciplined in this case. Capt. Tim Mullinax said this week that Cleek believed Russell's actions were legal because a dispatcher told him so.

Ritchey, however, has been disciplined over the February incident. At the home, he asked Jennifer White for a copy of the order of protection. She did not have one, and so Ritchey did not pursue Russell White.

But, according to a reprimand Ritchey received in September, he should have called the Hamilton County 911 Center. A dispatcher could have given him a copy of the protection order, which would have allowed him to arrest Russell White.

In addition to the reprimand, Ritchey also had to take part in remedial training about how to handle domestic violence calls.

Police officials have also disciplined Lt. Lynn Ford for his lack of action in a separate, related incident.

On May 29, Jennifer White's neighbor, Christi Walker, was watching White's daughters when they supposedly noticed Russell White pull into their driveway. Walker told the Times Free Press the girls were scared, and she soon called Jennifer.

Jennifer said she met with Ford the same day about the incident, but she said he refused to file a report. Ford told others in the police department that he does not remember whether he met with her, records show.

He has since received a "letter of counseling" advising him to write reports of his meetings with complainants. He also must attend a training session about how to handle domestic violence cases.

Chattanooga police arrested Russell White on July 18 on charges of harassment for a separate incident. That case is still pending.

Russell White said he does not recall whether he broke the order of protection in December and February. He said Jennifer wants him to be arrested because she is jealous that he is in another relationship.

He also said that Jennifer was actually arrested in May for harassing him, although there is no record of any arrest in Hamilton County's Sessions or Criminal Court online files.

"I find it odd that someone can make false allegations on somebody and get away with it," Russell said of Jennifer.

Russell White is due in Hamilton County Sessions Court on Thursday on charges of harassment. He is also due in Criminal Court on Dec. 3 on charges of domestic assault.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.