Nashville police chief blasts DA’s office in scathing letter

Chief Steve Anderson_408367

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro-Nashville’s Chief of Police Steve Anderson sent a scathing letter to the district attorney’s office regarding its handling of the announcement there would be no charges against Officer Joshua Lippert, who shot and killed Jocques Clemmons this past February.

During the announcement on May 11, Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter outlined four concerns the DA’s office had with the Metro-Nashville police reports on the investigation into the shooting, saying the wording of the reports showed an appearance of bias even before the investigation was completed. She noted a Metro police report timestamped about 5 hours after Clemmons death classified it as a “justifiable homicide” and the status of the investigation “completed.”

Chief Anderson says in his letter, dated Monday, “Your account is, at best, a misstatement of the facts.”

“This was especially troubling in that you were, PRIOR to this event, furnished with an explanation as to why and how this report was compiled,” the chief continues.

Anderson says he “fully briefed” the district attorney’s office on the terminology used in their reports and breaks down the reporting guidelines the department uses-the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System Manual (TIBRS)-and the rules for using the word “completed.”

He also says on the same police report DA Hunter references, “… the status of the investigation is clearly listed as ‘open.’”

“Finally, by the TIBRS mandate, the term ‘completed’ is not a designation that can be utilized to report on the status of an investigation. Only the terms ‘open,’ ‘unfounded,’ ‘cleared by arrest,’ or ‘cleared exceptionally’ may be utilized,” Chief Anderson explains.

He goes on to reiterate the district attorney’s office was “fully briefed on these issues and furnished copies of the MNPD Report Writing Manual and the TIBRS Manual PRIOR to the press conference.”

Anderson writes there seems to be two reasons why DA Hunter would have misstated the facts concerning the report: it was unintentional and she was unaware of the TIBRS reporting process, or she “deliberately misstated the facts.”

He then says the former may be more difficult to believe.

Chief Anderson also said that “in the four days that have passed, you have made no public effort to correct your misstatement of the facts. As of now, your failure to acknowledge this misstatement of the facts has only affected your credibility. Failure to properly acknowledge your error will define your integrity and is likely to attract the attention of any governing or oversight body.”

He concludes by urging DA Hunter to hold a press conference acknowledging her alleged “misstatements.”

Click here to read the full letter from Chief Anderson.

When News 2 asked for a comment from the Metro-Nashville Police Department, spokesman Don Aaron said, “The memorandum speaks for itself.”

We later obtained an email sent from Captain Jason Reinbold with Metro police to DA Hunter and Attorney Ed Ryan ahead of the news conference on May 11. The email does outline the policies on writing reports and Captain Reinbold explains the terminology. It was sent at 12:52 p.m.; the press conference was held at 3 p.m.

News 2 also reached out to the District Attorney’s Office, which confirmed it received the letter and shared a response from General Glenn Funk, who says his office isn’t criticizing Metro’s police officers but the policies they follow.

He forwarded Chief Anderson’s letter to Nashville mayor Megan Barry along with his response “since he is your employee.”

Funk says he stands by Deputy DA Hunter and the comments she made during the May 11 news conference, reiterating the points she made regarding Metro’s police reports and how they may be perceived as biased.

He specifically mentions the four concerns of the reports mentioned during the conference, which are as follows:

Labels an officer involved shooting as “justifiable homicide” within five hours of the event and before witnesses have been interviewed

Frequently labels the officer who is being investigated in the incident as the “victim”

Frequently labels the deceased as the “suspect”

Often lists the crime being investigated as “aggravated assault”

General Funk repeats DA Hunter’s opening statement as well, noting she made it clear their aim was to address the writing policies because that’s how they were taught to write reports.

Funk says what he proposed was for Metro police to change its policy to reflect current practices by the TBI.

“Those changes include listing the officer as ‘officer’ not ‘victim,’ and the deceased or injured citizen as ‘other’ not ‘suspect.’ Also, I suggested that MNPD reports should not reflect a legal conclusion such as “justifiable homicide” until all legal proceedings are concluded. If the box on the report must be filled and no current verbiage is appropriate, then the computer program should be amended to include proper terminology,” the DA continues.

He says Chief Anderson responded to their suggestions for improving Metro police terminology “with personal attacks on our deputy DA who presented that portion of our report.”

“Her words were accurate and I stand by Amy Hunter’s statements and everything included in the report,” Funk says to the mayor, adding, “I hope that future discussions can remain focused on best practices designed to assure a safe Nashville with enhanced confidence in police investigations.”

Click here to read General Funk’s letter to Mayor Barry in full.

On Wednesday, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said she will be meeting with Funk and Chief Anderson “to discuss their ongoing concerns about how we best instill confidence in all parts of our criminal justice system – from best practices from policing to how our DA and police work together to ensure trust and transparency. We will work through differences and we will take any steps necessary to move forward. The public and the men and women of MNPD deserve no less.”

News 2 also reached out to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which was asked to investigate Clemmons’ death by the DA’s office,

Spokesman Josh DeVine says, “Our leadership has received this memorandum. As the District Attorney General’s announcement was his alone, we have no response to offer to this memorandum.”Click here to read more about the Jocques Clemmons case.

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