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Steve Tyson
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Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel
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Tyson agreement

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J. David Bishop

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - A pair of subpoenas issued to Cleveland's city manager and police chief has taken the scrutiny surrounding the recent firing and rehiring of a 27-year veteran police officer to another level.

City Manager Janice Casteel and police Chief David Bishop have been subpoenaed to appear before the Bradley County grand jury on Nov. 19 with documents related to the dismissal of Lt. Steve Tyson.

Tyson was fired Aug. 18 after an internal investigation determined that he violated departmental drug policies. He was rehired before the end of the month after agreeing not to sue the city.

"The subpoena said they [the grand jury] wanted to review all the records in this matter," Casteel said in a text message on Wednesday.

Bishop, who is on medical leave, could not be reached for comment, but Capt. Mark Gibson confirmed that the chief had received a subpoena in regard to Tyson.

Tyson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The grand jury action follows an inquiry initiated by the Cleveland City Council, which pressed Casteel and Bishop for details of the investigation that resulted in Tyson's firing.

On Aug. 25, Tyson's family, friends and co-workers packed a City Council meeting to speak in his support. They said the officer's only mistake was taking one of his son's prescription pills to relieve pain from a kidney stone in late June. He tested positive on a subsequent drug screening.

"I'm disappointed [about the firing], I don't mind telling you that," said City Councilman Dale Hughes in late August. "I've had more calls on this than anything [else] since I've been on the council."

Bishop said at an Aug. 29 meeting that if an officer tests positive for drugs, policy requires launching an internal affairs investigation, securing the officer's equipment and notifying the district attorney's office.

Hughes criticized Bishop for not "eyeballing" Tyson in a face-to-face meeting ahead of the officer's firing.

"We followed the procedures ... for the police department," Casteel said in response to queries by members of the City Council. "They don't have that discretion as to whether to pick this one or that one."

At the council's request, the city manager's office turned over documentation, including memos and emails, related to Tyson's firing.

The inquiry process is not intended as a "gotcha after the fact," Councilman Bill Estes said Wednesday.

"Administration is an art, not a science," said Estes. "We [the City Council] set policy, and this will help us make cleaner policy."

On July 2, Tyson was relieved of duty after testing positive on a random drug screening.

On Aug. 15, the department announced that he had violated three Class A policies, according to an internal affairs investigation: reporting to duty or on duty while intoxicated, the use of a prescribed or over-the-counter drugs while on duty or training, and the commission of a misdemeanor.

Each of the violations can result in termination, and the police department recommended to Casteel that Tyson be fired, police spokeswoman Evie West said at the time.

But the council voted 6-0 at that Aug. 25 meeting that Tyson be rehired, even though the decision technically was up to Casteel.

Council members also have called for changes to departmental drug policies that would allow for flexibility.

"We need to take a long look and make sure we don't make the same mistake with a guy who has an impeccable record," Hughes said.

Proposed alterations to police department drug policy "should allow for consideration of mitigating factors even when there are multiple Class A violations," Bishop said in a letter sent to Casteel on Sept. 12

The council is expected to review the Tyson investigation and the proposed drug policy changes soon.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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