Report reveals new information about fired Chattanooga police officer [video]

Report reveals new information about fired Chattanooga police officer [video]

April 29th, 2017 by Emmett Gienapp in Local Regional News
“Why do they got to abuse us like this now, man? Why do they got to treat us like this? They treat me like an animal. ”
Hanson Melvin, who investigators found was falsely arrested by former officer David Campbell

Where Campbell Sped

112-120 mph on Lupton Drive

114 mph on Hixson Pike past Steak & Shake

110-115 mph from 3100 Dayton Boulevard to 1800 Dayton Boulevard

106 mph passing Publix on North Market Street

106 mph at Food City on Hixson Pike

104 mph on Hixson Pike over Highway 153

A Chattanooga police officer who was fired in February for false arrest, harassment and violating the vehicle use policy might want to consider a new career in NASCAR.

David Campbell had a habit of driving recklessly at speeds of over 100 mph on city streets, sometimes without emergency lights and sirens activated, according to an internal affairs report.

Four incidents came under review after Campbell was first found to have violated driving policies in January 2016. As a result, his superiors recommended that his driving privileges be revoked immediately.

"His behaviors are menacing and pose a danger to public safety. It is my suggestion that he be relieved of driving privileges indefinitely due in part by his own admission that he's aware of policy, and indifferent to his training, policy and the ramifications of his actions," wrote Lt. Jerri Sutton.

The first incident occurred on Feb. 18, 2016, shortly after 11 p.m. when an officer requested backup at Hixson Pike and Highway 153. Campbell was not dispatched to the call, but chose to respond anyway from where he was on the 200 block of Broad Street.

Campbell's in-car recording system clocked him going 74 mph on the Market Street Bridge and then 106 mph on North Market Street while passing the Publix grocery store.

He traveled on North Dallas Road toward Hixson Pike and passed to the right of another car, even as its driver was attempting to yield to the right for Campbell. There was no collision, but Campbell could be heard on an in-car microphone "scolding" the driver, the report stated.

He reached 88 mph on Hixson Pike with only his lights flashing and hit 106 mph again near Food City on Hixson Pike.

When asked why he chose to drive so fast just 21 days after a previous disciplinary hearing, Campbell said "it hadn't been that long and old habits were hard to break," according to the report.

The second incident on July 13, 2016, was again on Hixson Pike, this time on the 2600 block near the River Hills Manor Apartments. Campbell was recorded going 99 mph without active emergency lights or sirens in response to a call about a suspicious person or vehicle that another officer had been dispatched to.

The day after that incident, he was recorded going 87 mph on Lupton Drive with only his lights and passing a car in a curve over a double yellow line. He then ran a stop sign at 40 mph onto Newberry Street in Red Bank.

He sped south on Dayton Boulevard and went between 110 and 115 mph for several blocks. Finally he turned onto Signal Mountain Road, passed a marked Chattanooga police car and arrived at the scene of a crash where two other police cars were already present.

Again, he had not been dispatched to the scene, but explained that "out-of-jurisdiction cars were working a wreck on Signal Mountain Road" so he needed to get there quickly.

When asked about passing cars and his speed, he said he "only passed one, and the roads were empty and it seemed safe to do so."

On Aug. 5, 2016, he was recorded going 104 mph on Hixson Pike over Highway 153 before accelerating to 114 mph past the Steak & Shake and 105 mph farther on. He was responding to a fight near Big Ridge Road and two officers were already present.

Two hours later, he drove 112 mph to 120 mph on Lupton Drive because he saw deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office responding to a call in Red Bank and chose to go with them.

"I believe the basis of FTO Campbell's driving habits are founded in the urge to help his fellow officers and to keep them safe, but it is not remotely balanced with his obligation to do so with due regard to the lives of our community members, much less his own," wrote Lt. C.W. Joel, commander of the precinct known as Adam sector north.

When police officers speed, the consequences can be deadly. In June 2009, a Milford, Conn., police cruiser going 94 mph in a 40 mph zone rammed into a car killing the two teens inside.

Evidence suggests the problem is prevalent nationwide. Three years after the crash in Milford, a three-month Sun-Sentinel investigation found almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies in and around Miami drove 90 to 130 mph on Florida highways.

Many weren't on duty and were instead commuting to and from work in their patrol cars. After the investigation was published, 44 Miami-Dade police detectives were required to undergo "counseling" acknowledging the violations, and many had to take an eight-hour driving safety course.

Given the opportunity to explain his own driving record, Campbell said he did not feel he needed more training and he hadn't forgotten the department's guidelines on vehicle use.

" Sometimes policy is not at the forefront of my mind," he said. "My tactics are as safe as possible. I also hope my driving record speaks for itself since I haven't hit anything yet and anything hasn't hit me."

He also said he had not intentionally violated policy.

"I never act contrary to policy. I know that policy is there to protect me, but I also have to protect my brother and sister officers," he said.

He was terminated after a hearing that covered both his driving infractions and the false arrest of Hanson Melvin, 27, on May 29, 2016.

In that case, Campbell arrested Melvin for disorderly conduct at the Northgate Crossing Apartments.

Campbell responded to a report of a fight and spotted Melvin, whom he knew, walking on the sidewalk nearby. Campbell asked Melvin if he had gotten his revoked license back yet.

Melvin said no, but Campbell became authoritative and began to demand the license, calling himself a government official on government property. The situation escalated after Melvin told Campbell he was tired of being harassed by the officer. Campbell told him to put his hands on the car and placed him under arrest.

"It is clear in the audio of the [in-car] system that Hanson Melvin was quite calm for most of this encounter until the realization of the impending arrest. Officer Campbell, however, goes from being friendly, to being authoritative and finally the arrest of Melvin after the 'none of your business' statement which drew more attention than Melvin's actions," reads an internal affairs report.

In 2012, Campbell was suspended for three days after he improperly arrested a man and cursed at him for not moving a vehicle.

In that incident, Campbell pulled over 20-year-old William Boston in June 2012 for improperly displaying a temporary license tag in his rear window, according to Times Free Press archives.

Campbell became impatient at the end of the traffic stop while waiting for Boston to move his car, and a video of the incident showed Campbell charging up to him, demanding that he leave.

He then arrested Boston for disorderly conduct and obstructing a roadway, but both charges were dismissed. Internal affairs investigators said it was clear Campbell behaved unprofessionally, and said it seemed he arrested Boston simply because he became angry.

Campbell has the opportunity to appeal his termination and his attorney said an administrative hearing has been set for May 31-June 2.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.


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