UPDATE: Chattanooga police begin internal investigation on drag - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

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UPDATE: Chattanooga police begin internal investigation on drag racing incident

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Two Chattanooga Police officers accused of drag racing in their patrol cars have come forward.

The department started investigating after a video was posted to Channel 3's Facebook page over the weekend. It appears to show the two officers racing.

The two officers have been on the force just shy of two years.

We finally caught up with police Chief Fred Fletcher to hear what he was to say about the accusations.

For two straight days as Channel 3 broadcast updates on video of two police cars apparently drag racing, police Chief Fred Fletcher wanted no part of talking to the media about it.

CPD's head of Internal Affairs did answer questions on Wednesday. But the chief said his schedule was too busy.
 
We finally found him on a public conference call and dialed in.
 
"As soon as I learned about it I launched an investigation. And we have been aggressively pursuing all information both factual and observational and witness that we can get. That investigation is ongoing and when have more information about it we will share it with both the media and the public," says Fletcher.

"The officers reported to their chain of command yesterday that they were the officers seen on the video," says Captain Zac McCullough, over the professional standards division.

The two officers in the cruisers are officers Mikel Thomas and Mark Niethammer.

We have confirmed they were on patrol duty when the video was shot on Crutchfield Street.
  
Channel 3 pulled both of their Internal Aaffairs histories and both are clean.
 
"The only thing on their record is a commendation for each of them," says McCullough.

Thomas is credited with rescuing a young girl from a house fire on N. Hawthorne Street in January of 2015, and was recognized by the Police Department for his efforts. 

 "They are entitled to certain due process rights that we respect," says McCullough.

McCullough, who oversees Internal Affairs, says the department is gathering all the facts it can including trying to talk with the man who shot the video.
 
"We have attempted to make contact with the person who took the video. So far he has chosen not to come forward and make an official statement."

Both cruiser have dash cameras but the officers did not reach speeds high enough to activate them.

The Internal Affairs investigation could take up to 70 days before any disciplinary action is given.

In the meantime, the two officers are on the force.

IA investigators are set to have formal interviews with the officers some time this week.


PREVIOUS STORY: The Chattanooga Police Department says it still has not been able to figure out if two of their patrol cars were involved in a drag race caught on camera. After doing some investigating of our own, Channel 3 has learned where that happened.

The man who shot the video works at the United Packers Warehouse off Crutchfield Street. He does not want to be identified and did not want to talk with Channel 3 about what he saw.

Several businesses along Crutchfield recognized the stretch of road once Channel 3 aired the drag racing video.

READ MORE | FIRST ON 3: CPD patrol cars appear to be drag racing, department investigating

As the police still search for answers, we sat down with a driving instructor who has a criminal justice background to analyze the video.

Dr. Roger Thompson has worked in the criminal justice department at UTC for the past 40 years and has consulted for various police departments including CPD.

"This is not something that should be happening under color of law," he says in regards to the drag racing video.

For 20 years, he has been a master driving instructor.
 
"It suggests a promotion of a double standard," says Thompson.

Thompson studied the video which appears to show two Chattanooga police cruisers drag racing.

Channel 3 has since confirmed the video was shot on Crutchfield Street.
 
When asked if there are any valid reasons for two cruisers to be racing down a public street, Thompson responds, "No. You're setting yourself up in a dangerous situation."

The point-three mile, flat stretch, is lined with a number of businesses.

Several workers say they have seen CPD cruisers on the road before but never racing.

Thompson says even if it is a quiet road, racing on a public street is dangerous.
 
"The risk of collision, the risk of injury, it's there."

He says if the cruisers were part of a training exercise, it was conducted in the wrong place.
 
"If there's going to be reason for it to be a training exercise, it should be in a parking lot," Thompson.

Channel 3 requested an interview with police Chief Fred Fletcher to address the video.

We were told it would be irresponsible for the department to comment on an internal fact-finding investigation and that "the chief will be able to provide sound concerning this topic once solidified facts become available." 

"To have an honest and trusting relationship when questions like this come forward, there is a deserving of some level of explanation," says Thompson.

If you have info that can help police, you are asked to call its Internal Affairs department at 423) 643-6240.

Drag racing is a class B misdemeanor. You can serve up to six months in prison, have to pay fines, and you could have your license revoked for one year.

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