Mediation set for activist, Chattanooga police officer in Facebook squabble

Officer William Puckett

A Chattanooga police officer and a local activist who got into a public squabble on Facebook late last year will sit down at the same table and talk things through.

According to police records, that's part of the officer's discipline.

photo Officer William Puckett
photo Chris Brooks

Officer William Puckett and activist Chris Brooks will go through professional mediation - apparently the first time in police department history that an officer and a civilian have done so.

Chief Fred Fletcher sustained one count of unbecoming conduct against Puckett in June after the officer made two comments against Brooks on Facebook in December 2014. The officer suggested Brooks shouldn't discuss racial injustice because he has never been a police officer.

"Other than television, do you have any real life experience?" the officer wrote. "I doubt it."

Later he added, "Real men work, b-----s cheer from the sidelines."

When Fletcher sustained the unbecoming conduct charge at the conclusion of an internal affairs investigation in June, he offered Puckett a choice.

"You can receive Door No. 1, discipline, or Door No. 2, which would be significantly less discipline and a mediation program," Fletcher said. Puckett agreed to the mediation.

Fletcher said Brooks and Puckett will likely meet just once, although the hired mediator - which both parties agreed on - will make the final decision. The mediation is set to take place in October.

Brooks said he is happy with how the department has handled his complaint and is satisfied that police took Puckett's comments seriously. He said that marks a change from the past.

"I've always seen the [internal affairs] administrative review committee as a place where complaints go to die," he said.

"Phone calls weren't returned and complaints weren't really investigated, but under this administration, the police department seems to be taking its accountability and responsibility to the community seriously."

Fletcher said he intends to use mediation and other "education-based" discipline more in the future.

He added that if an officer were to go through nontraditional discipline and then repeat the same wrong behavior, the officer would face more strict discipline the second time around.

"What might have been a three-day [suspension] could become a 10-day," Fletcher said.

Puckett did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Monday.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or with tips or story ideas.