Chattanooga Police Department officials fired one K-9 officer and suspended two others after an internal affairs probe concluded they falsified police dogs' certifications, officials said Friday.
Officer Iran Meadows, the department's head trainer, was fired Thursday, department officials said. Charges of submitting false documents, untruthfulness during an internal affairs investigation, neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer were sustained against the 12-year department veteran. "Officer Meadows was found to be the author of the documents," said Capt. Mark Rawlston, supervisor of internal affairs. "Officer Meadows continued to be untruthful during the investigation." Officer Meadows did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment.
Officers Mark Haley and Ruth Bowman each were suspended for 21 days without pay. The veteran officers were charged with falsifying documents, lying to internal affairs investigators, neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer. Each will serve a six-month probationary period, officials said Friday.
Officer Haley declined to comment on the disciplinary action. Officer Bowman could not be reached for comment. In early June, the Chattanooga Times Free Press asked Sgt. Dennis Pedigo, the police department's K-9 coordinator, to produce certifications by the United States Police Canine Association for the department's six police dogs. These dogs are used to detect drugs, patrol streets and sniff out explosive devices. Department policy requires each dog and handler to be certified by the organization before being put into service, officials said.
Certificates were produced for five of the six dogs, including Officer Bowman's dog Casper and Viper, Officer Haley's dog. Those dogs' certificates appeared to have been doctored, police officials said. When department officials checked with the U.S. Police Canine Association, they found the organization had no record of Casper or Viper receiving narcotics detection certificates at an April dog trial held in Chattanooga, Deputy Chief Charles Cooke said in June.
According to the internal affairs report, Officer Meadows "knowingly submitted falsified copies of his own certificate in the names of Officer Haley and Officer Bowman."
The report found that Officer Meadows used his own legitimate certificate to make copies for the other officers' dogs, officials said.
"Officer Meadows states he had no knowledge of how falsified documents were submitted when they are in fact copies of a document only he has had custody and control over," the report states.
Concerning the charge of neglect of duty, the report states, "as a trainer ... Officer Meadows is negligent for not tracking the progress and success of the animals undergoing the certification process at the USPCA Trials."
Officer Meadows told internal affairs investigators he "received information (from) Officer Bowman's information packet and made copies without looking at them and turned those copies in to Sgt. Pedigo."
The report states Officer Meadows gave conflicting accounts of who gave him Officer Haley's packet. Officer Meadows maintained that he copied that information without looking at it and submitted it to Sgt. Pedigo, the report states.
"Officer Meadows further states he was too busy hosting the trials to keep up with who had or had not certified," the report states.
Capt. Rawlston said Officer Haley was "not a party to the creation or submission of the documents." He said Officer Bowman was out of town when the documents were created. Officer Bowman told internal affairs investigators she never looked in her information packet after the April trials to see if she and Casper were certified. "Officer Bowman states she has no knowledge of how a false document was submitted," the report states.
Officer Haley told investigators he "never picked his information packet up and has no knowledge of how a false document was submitted."
Last month, the department replaced Officer Meadows as head trainer with Officer Nathan Vaughn. It also posted job openings for two K-9 handlers, officials said.
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