Chief broadens probe of Chattanooga officer suspected drunk - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chief Dodd: others could face discipline for officer suspected drunk

Posted: Updated:

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- A veteran Chattanooga Police officer remains suspended with pay while Internal Affairs investigators await results of blood alcohol tests to determine whether he was drunk while on duty the last night of Riverbend.

But Chief Bobby Dodd says Steven Jones may not be the only officer to face disciplinary action.

"I want to know who knew what, and what actions were taken," Dodd told a news conference Tuesday.

"There may be some other officers who have some consequences....it (the incident) couldn't have happened at a worse time for us."

Dodd describes Jones as a friend.  Jones was about four hours into a motorcycle patrol of the Olgiati Bridge Saturday night, tasked with preventing drivers from gawking during the fireworks display.

"One of the officers observed something and it got reported to us," Chief Dodd says.

He declined to say whether Jones' behavior or his breath was the tip-off, citing the open investigation.

Chief Dodd also has confirmed that  Jones never was arrested, but detained while officers performed sobriety tests on the bridge and at the Riverbend Command Post, before drawing blood later.
He has declined to say how long Jones was held, or how he got home.

"We can't really make a decision on discipline until we get the blood results back. If the blood tests come back .08 (Tennessee's legal standard for driving while intoxicated) obviously, he drank before he got there, or drank while he was there."

"If it turns out he was intoxicated over .08, he will be charged with driving under the influence."

Under CPD's Code of Conduct, Jones could be judged guilty of violating policy if tests show any alcohol content in his blood. Chief Dodd could, at his discretion, suspend or fire him.

Ironically, however, the very requirements that could put Jones' job at risk could offer him a measure of protection from criminal prosecution, according to Sgt. Craig Joel, Vice President of the Chattanooga chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

"As a city employee and a sworn officer, he's not afforded the same rights as citizens," Sgt. Joel says.

"He does not have the right to refuse to answer questions," Chief Dodd adds.

"He does not have the right to refuse chemical tests," Sgt. Joel continues.

 "In court, he could argue that he was unwilling to let them draw blood, but felt compelled to do so. That evidence could get tossed."

Officer Jones has hired an attorney, Sgt. Joel says.  

Eyewitness News has been unable to reach Officer Jones or the attorney whom Joel named, for comment.

But Chief Dodd concedes Jones may be able to avoid further discipline within the Department if he chooses to retire.

Jones is eligible to retire with 25 years of service.

Public records indicate he will earn $51,827 this year as a Master Police Officer. His yearly pension would be 68.75% of his average salary the past three years.

He likely wouldn't forfeit it if he were suspended or terminated.

"It's a private pension made up of our money,"Sgt. Joel says.

"It would be difficult to see how it would be impacted."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Chattanooga Fire & Police Pension Fund had received no notice from Officer Jones of any intention to retire, according to the  administrative assistant who answered our telephone inquiry.

Officer Jones has been assigned to the Traffic Division for the past several years. His primary assignment has been to investigate and re-construct wreck scenes, according to Chief Dodd.

"He's done good work,; it's an unfortunate situation," the Chief says.

"But you have to step back and realize that you have a job to do, and if you make a poor decision--you draw that to the table."

Powered by Frankly