Chattanooga Police Department to enhance sexual harassment training

Chattanooga Police Seal

After an internal investigation's findings that an officer was sexually harassing female cadets, the Chattanooga Police Department is reviewing officers' suggestions to enhance sexual harassment training.

Officer Ricky Ballard was suspended on Feb. 1 for 160 hours without pay after a human resources investigation - beginning in June 2018 - found "extensive evidence" of "a pattern of sexual harassment of female cadets," according to a statement of conclusion.

photo Ricky Ballard (Photo from Chattanooga Police Department)

In addition to "confirm[ing] the validity of the sexual harassment claims," human resources investigators made three recommendations for the department as a whole.

The first recommendation was to add questions specific to harassment and bullying in instructor evaluations.

The Chattanooga Police Department now requires instructor evaluations to be completed anonymously at the end of each academy, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said in an emailed statement.

Every cadet is given instructions on the purpose of the instructor evaluations, and they are "highly encouraged to provide open-ended, comprehensive feedback which includes potential [equal employment opportunity] issues (i.e. discrimination, harassment)," Myzal said.

However, there aren't any questions that prompt cadets to give feedback on harassment and/or bullying, specifically.

The second recommendation was to add a female instructor to future academies.

However, there already is a female instructor in the training division, Myzal said, and it would be in "direct violation" of established law to limit hiring to a specific gender.

The last human resources recommendation was to implement sexual harassment training for both instructors and cadets.

"Sexual harassment training is provided at the beginning of each academy for cadets," Myzal said.

And, each year, officers are required to read and sign the department's policy that addresses harassment. By signing it, they "indicate they are aware of the expectations of the Department," Myzal said.

"The Administration is reviewing suggestions received from officers that could enhance this training," she said.

As for Ballard, his attorney Stevie Phillips said he is looking forward to "returning to work and the day-to-day demands of his job."

"Officer Ricky Ballard has an outstanding record with the Chattanooga Police Department that spans over two decades of service to our community," Phillips said in a statement.

Phillips pushed back against the conclusions of the internal investigation.

"Many of the allegations against him have been mistakenly referred to as 'findings,'" she said. "In fact, they are merely allegations and have never been proven in any court of law. After careful review, the Police Department sustained only one violation."

Police Chief David Roddy did indeed sustain only one violation - one for unbecoming conduct - but that violation was sustained based on the evidence found during the investigation that investigators said confirmed the claims of sexual harassment.

Ballard was the fifth Chattanooga police officer to be disciplined just this year. His suspension came after a string of firings and criminal investigations into two former police officers accused of rape and sexual battery.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at [email protected] or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.