Arrested officer's record reflects praise, penalties - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Arrested officer's record reflects praise, penalties

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By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Hamilton County Sheriff's investigators say the husband of Corrections officer Lori Pickett doesn't want her charged with assaulting him.

Pickett is accused of attacking court officer Jim Pickett, on February 18, in a confrontation over an alleged love affair.

But her fate isn't in the hands of the alleged victim.

"In a domestic violence situation, the State makes the choice to pursue the prosecution," says Chief Deputy Allen Branum. "If an offense is alleged, we are bound by law to investigate it."

That also is why Pickett faces an investigation the Sheriff's Department's Division of Internal Affairs.

It's at least her third such investigation since becoming a Hamilton County employee in 1988.

Pickett began as a dispatcher, winning a commendation for helping save valuable equipment when the 911 Center flooded in 1992.

She became the only woman to serve in the Patrol Division in 1994. By 1998, her performance was such that her supervisor lauded her dedication for "refuting the notion that women cannot make good police officers."

Pickett won one commendation that year for aiding in a 15-hour trench rescue, two more in 2000 for discovering a meth lab and leadership in investigating a stolen car, and still another in 2001 for helping identify a burglary suspect.

But an Eyewitness News review of her personnel file also uncovers problems.

Eight years ago, Pickett was suspended for 30 days for conduct unbecoming an officer, and for not telling the truth. The file does not detail the specific allegations that led to that finding.

"I've not personally looked at em," Chief Branum says.

In 2004, Pickett received a written reprimand for taking a number of sick days, and for calling off work just as her shifts were to begin.

By 2005, the behavior was so chronic that her supervisor asked his superior to transfer her.

"(Her) actions manipulate our team and put our officers at risk each time she calls in" wrote Sgt. Mark Hooper. "Her actions cause animosity among my officers. I no longer feel she is a team player."

Pickett's annual reviews reflect a growing dissatisfaction with her job performance. Graded on a 5-point scale (5 being the highest), Pickett was judged a 2.75 in 2010, 3.1 in 2009, and 2.9 in 2007 and 2008.

Prior to the 30-day suspension, Pickett had been rated 4.3 in 2002.

Sheriff's supervisors transferred Pickett from Patrol into Corrections in 2010. She became an administrator, tracking sex offenders.

Since her arrest February 18, Pickett is being treated as if she were a civilian employee, Chief Branum says. She does not carry a weapon, nor does she have arrest powers.

She's due back in court March 28. Chief Branum won't speculate as to what might happen to her law enforcement career, regardless of how her criminal charges are adjudicated.

"We all at some point in our lives make bad decisions." he says. "This very well could just be a case of poor judgment. That's why we've got this investigation to sort it out."

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