A Chattanooga Police Department officer was recently suspended for making a racist comment in 2018, according to internal affairs files released Wednesday.
Police Chief David Roddy suspended officer John Andrew Doub for 20 hours on Oct. 15, 2018, for unsatisfactory conduct. The chief's decision followed an investigation into a comment Doub made to three colleagues earlier in the year about how being black is a crime.
According to police files, Doub was assisting a group of colleagues with a traffic crash at East 3rd Street and Orchard Knob Avenue on May 28, 2018, when a conversation began about a legal issue they'd been debating for the past few weeks: whether police could take action if a passenger of a vehicle that was lawfully stopped refused to identify themselves.
After one officer said police couldn't demand the passenger's identification if they hadn't committed a crime, Doub replied, "they did commit a crime — being black," according to on-scene officers.
The comment also was captured on Doub's rolling body-worn camera, the files say. The city did not include that footage in its partial release Wednesday to the Times Free Press, which put in a records request for it earlier this month after learning about the incident.
Word spread through the department in 2018 after Doub made the comment. One officer who was not on the scene said he approached Doub about the comment but Doub denied it. According to the files, the confronting officer spoke to a lieutenant who then reported the situation to internal affairs.
Every on-scene officer interviewed by internal affairs told a similar story: They didn't like the comment but hadn't heard Doub say anything else racist and would continue to work with him. A few said they'd had few interactions with Doub, who joined the department in 2017. Others knew him from previous employment at the Hamilton County Jail, where Doub worked from 2014 to 2017.
One officer said he told Doub he needed to be mindful about his language, since they patrolled in a high-crime area with gangs and drugs and needed to protect one another. But Doub's response made the officer feel like "I was talking to a brick wall," the files say. In that same conversation, the officer said, Doub made comments about third-shift officers being lazy.
Doub could not be reached for comment through a Facebook message.
In his interview with internal affairs, Doub said he didn't recall exactly what he said but that it wasn't meant to be offensive. Instead, he meant the comment to be a "cheap jab at law enforcement," the files say. Doub added he was not racist in any way and said it was a stupid comment he shouldn't have made.
Police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said officers are allowed to express themselves to the degree their words don't contradict the department's vision, which is to "be respected and trusted by all segments of Chattanooga's diverse community."
"When a complaint is filed regarding an officer using words that are derogatory or mocking towards an individual or segment of the community we serve, the matter will be thoroughly investigated," Myzal said.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.