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Chattanooga police Sgt. Jonathan Watkins / Contributed photo

Former Chattanooga police Sgt. Jonathan Watkins was demoted earlier this year after getting on the dispatch radio to call Rossville, Georgia, police "too chicken" to handle what Watkins believed was a burglary in progress within Chattanooga city limits last year.

Watkins continued to curse at the reporting officer while telling him to go back to Georgia "and be a security guard," according to Chattanooga Police Department internal affairs records.

Under advice of his counsel, Watkins declined to comment.

According to records obtained by the Times Free Press, the Rossville officer was on the Georgia side of the state line on March 7, 2020, when he was flagged down by a civilian reporting a broken window at America's Hearth and Patio Warehouse, which is just across the Tennessee state line on Rossville Boulevard.

That officer then went to the warehouse and, after verifying there was a broken window, notified his dispatcher of the vandalism and said he didn't know whether anyone was inside the building, the internal affairs report states.

The call was relayed to Chattanooga police as a burglary in progress with "a Rossville officer witnessing this." Watkins told dispatchers to note that he was on his way "since Rossville's too chicken to do anything."

When Watkins arrived, the Rossville officer approached him, saying, "If you don't need anything else from me, I'm going back to the other side of the state line," according to Rossville body camera footage provided by Chattanooga police.

"You aint done s—- for us, so go on back to Georgia," Watkins replied. "You're gonna sit here and watch someone break in one of my businesses and not do s—- about it, go back to f——— Georgia and be a security guard."

"That's not what happened," the officer responded, explaining that he was in Georgia when he was flagged down for a broken window.

"Whatever, man. Go back to Georgia," Watkins said on the body camera footage before the Rossville officer turned to leave.

Watkins later told internal investigators his reaction was due to "the frustration of any police officer observing a felony crime being committed and not taking action to stop it."

Investigators asked Watkins why he didn't try to get more information from the Rossville officer, noting that, "Presumably, this is the sole observer, the sole witness to a burglary in progress and potentially has information — valuable information that he could've provided regarding how many suspects, what the suspects looked like, where they came from, where they went, are they still on scene, that kind of thing."

Watkins responded, "Yes, he was [the sole observer]. And he advised he was leaving.

"I didn't want to talk to him. I'll just be honest with you, I didn't want nothing to do with him," Watkins later added. "He wanted gone, and I wanted him gone."

By the end of the investigation, Captain Nathan Vaughn noted Watkins' "behavior brought discredit to the [Chattanooga department], himself as an employee of the department and to his subordinates. This interaction with a neighboring law enforcement agency impaired the efficiency of himself and the department both during the incident in question and future interactions."

The allegation of unbecoming conduct was sustained, and Watkins was notified of his demotion on Jan. 22.

Contact Rosana Hughes at 423-757-6327, rhughes@timesfreepress.com or follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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