Two Chattanooga police officers fired for misconduct, third resigns during disciplinary hearings

Two Chattanooga police officers fired for misconduct, third resigns during disciplinary hearings

January 31st, 2019 by Mark Pace and Rosana Hughes in Breaking News

This story was updated at 1:25 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, with more information.

Two Chattanooga police officers were fired on Thursday after a slew of allegations, including insubordination, untruthfulness and at least one criminal offense, were sustained following separate internal investigations. A third officer resigned while under investigation.

Benjamin Dessalines and Cameka Bruce were fired during separate disciplinary review hearings. Desmond Logan resigned via email just minutes before his hearing.

Both Dessalines and Logan are facing separate criminal investigations. Dessalines is accused of kidnapping and sexual battery, and Logan is accused of rape. But the termination and firing are not directly connected to the criminal cases, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said.

Logan was under investigation for what the department called "sexual misconduct." He was accused of raping at least three women since 2015 while on the job. He resigned while under investigation for untruthfulness and two counts of improper procedure.

Dessalines was arrested in November on charges of felony kidnapping and felony sexual battery after a woman alleged he took her home, fondled her and told her he wanted to have sex with her. He was fired after allegations of insubordination, cooperation during internal investigation, untruthfulness, improper procedure and criminal offenses were sustained.

Both criminal investigations by other law enforcement agencies remain active and ongoing.

And Bruce was initially investigated over allegations of missing evidence and improper use of overtime. As a result of the investigation, she was offered a last-chance agreement, which puts an officer on notice that future misconduct could result in immediate demotion or termination. She was fired Thursday after sustained allegations of insubordination and untruthfulness.

The Chattanooga Police Department will request decertification from the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards & Training Commission for all three officers, according to a news release.

"The effectiveness of the Chattanooga Police Department and its officers depends on the relationship we have with the community we serve. The CPD continuously strives to improve that relationship, in part, by holding officers accountable and ensuring transparency with our community," police Chief David Roddy said in a statement. "The CPD Internal Affairs Unit will continue to thoroughly investigate all reported allegations of officer misconduct. This coupled with the incredible and professional work officers do every day will continue to preserve and improve the community's trust of its police department."

Five other officers are known to have recently faced internal investigations over allegations ranging from solicitation of a prostitute and public intoxication to excessive use of force.

Of the eight officers, three resigned, four have been fired and one remains under investigation.

 

Accusations of rape

Police chief David Roddy announced a last-minute news conference Saturday, June 16.

During the event, he notified the public an officer was under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct. When asked if there had been other complaints against the officer, Roddy answered "none relative to this type of investigation."

However, another police officer, accusers and an attorney representing several women in the case quickly denied that statement. At least four women have since claimed they previously notified the Chattanooga Police Department of criminal misconduct, including rape, by the officer — later identified through records and outside sources as Desmond Logan. Attempts to get public records have largely been blocked by the department and the city attorney's office.

Logan was hired by the department in July 2014. Within a year, he was accused of raping at least one woman in the back of his patrol car in an empty parking lot off Rossville Boulevard. The woman's allegation did not lead to an official investigation and her complaint did not make it into Logan's internal affairs or personnel files. However, her handwritten notes made directly after the alleged attack resurfaced last year when investigators brought the file to her while looking into another case.

Another woman claimed she was raped by Logan in 2018. She reported the incident to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office — rather than the police department as the other accusers claim to have done.

That incident prompted a criminal investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, the internal affairs investigation by the police department, and an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Two additional women claim to have accused Logan of criminal misconduct while he served in his role as an officer, according to an attorney representing the victims. One of those women claims to have accused Logan of rape, while another described to her attorneys an incident of alleged criminal activity, said Sutherland & Belk PLC attorney Chad Phillips. Both women, along with the first known accuser, claim to have notified the Chattanooga Police Department of the assaults.

Attempts to reach Logan and his attorney have been unsuccessful.

 

An alleged kidnapping

On Nov. 27, a woman filed a report with the Chattanooga Police Department's special victims unit outlining an alleged kidnapping and sexual advancements by a police officer. She identified the suspect as officer Dessalines.

The department opened an internal investigation that same day but turned the criminal investigation over to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office "to remove any suggestion regarding a conflict of interest," a Nov. 29 news release stated.

The woman told sheriff's deputies she was caught shoplifting on Nov. 8 at about 11 p.m. at a grocery store where Dessalines was working as a security guard, a criminal affidavit stated. The person who drove the woman to the store was told to go home, and Dessalines said he would take her home when his shift ended about 45 minutes later, the affidavit said.

Once in his vehicle, he told her he needed to meet someone at his apartment before taking her home, she told investigators. The woman said she wanted to stay in the SUV while Dessalines went inside, she told investigators, but he told her to get out. The woman was afraid and obliged, according to the affidavit.

Once inside, Dessalines allegedly kissed and fondled her and asked for sex, the affidavit stated. But she refused.

He eventually took her back to his vehicle, where he pulled a handgun from a bag and began to load it, the woman told investigators. She asked why he had a gun, and he told her because he was going to an unfamiliar area. Dessalines then turned into an alley and the woman thought she was going to be killed, the affidavit says.

He eventually turned around and took her to the address she provided. He allegedly told the woman she had more to lose than he did and she shouldn't tell anyone about what happened.

Dessalines was arrested on Nov. 29. He since has hired former Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern as his defense attorney.

 

Missing evidence

In mid-October, former homicide investigator Bruce was suspended for 160 hours without pay after Roddy sustained allegations of insubordination, filing false reports, misrepresentation, improper procedure for overtime submittal and missing property/evidence against her.

In November 2017 Bruce's supervisors began questioning the amount of overtime she was logging — about 160 hours over two months — and asked her to provide evidence of work done during those hours.

Bruce refused to comply with that order, which was considered insubordination, and triggered the internal investigation.

Investigators discovered she took a murder suspect's cellphone home with her on Oct. 16, 2017. Though internal affairs records are heavily redacted, one paragraph states that Bruce admitted she commonly took evidence home with her and that it had "never been an issue."

 

Other cases

Five other officers are known to have been under investigation since early 2018.

» On Feb. 2, 2018, former Lt. Craig Joel drove his city vehicle drunk, stumbled through the Highway 58 Amigo's Restaurant parking lot and got back behind the wheel before slumping over. He resigned Nov. 7.

» Twenty days later on Nov. 27 — the same day the report against Dessalines was filed — officer Daniel Parda was fired after an internal investigation.

» Then, on Dec. 13, the department opened an internal investigation after former Sgt. Peter Turk was taken into custody for solicitation of prostitution. He resigned on Dec. 18.

» On Jan. 18, an internal investigation was opened after the Times Free Press obtained body camera footage of Officer Benjamin Piazza punching 37-year-old Fredrico Wolfe during a March 3 arrest. Wolfe no longer faces criminal charges. Piazza was suspended the same day and remains under investigation.

» And most recently, on Jan. 18, officer Daniel Mitchum was terminated following an internal investigation after he was involved in a crash near Exit 4 on Interstate 75 while driving a patrol car on Aug. 24.

It isn't uncommon for several officers to be disciplined around the same time, said Seth Stoughton, associate professor at University of South Carolina who studies policing and spent five years as an officer with the Tallahassee Police Department in Florida.

"You may have several officers who engaged in misconduct about the same time and are therefore disciplined around the same time, with no connection other than that," he said.

Following terminations, Chief Roddy asks the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to decertify some officers. That extra step means officers no longer can work as officers anywhere in Tennessee.

Over the past five years, the Chattanooga Police Department has requested the decertification of 16 officers, nine of which were in 2018 and one already this year.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.