Chattanooga police instructor suspended after sexual harassment claims
City records reveal a Chattanooga police instructor was suspended without pay after an internal investigation confirmed claims he sexually harassed female cadets.
Six cadets from four different academies reported feeling uncomfortable around Officer Ricky Ballard. Two others said they were afraid to be alone with him.
Ballard was suspended without pay for 160 hours on February 1.
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Channel 3 spoke with Ballard over the phone who confirmed he will return to work Friday, March 1. His attorney, Stevie Phillips, sent the following statement:
“Officer Ricky Ballard has an outstanding record with the Chattanooga Police Department that spans over two decades of service to our community. Unfortunately, the allegations against him have been referred to as “findings.” In fact, they are merely allegations and have never been proven in any court of law. After careful review, the Police Department sustained only one violation. Officer Ballard looks forward to returning to work and the day-to-day demands of his job.”
Ballard is the fifth Chattanooga police officer to be disciplined this year.
The City of Chattanooga Human Resources Department began investigating Ballard after two cadets filed a complaint in June 2018. Ballard's file includes what investigators say is “evidence that shows a pattern of sexual harassment.” Thirteen police department employees were interviewed throughout the length of the investigation.
Investigative files, obtained by Channel 3, reveal in one instance, an officer recalls dying her hair a darker color. She says Ballard then told her he could “show you how to go black and not turn back."
Another officer stated that while at a cadet graduation party, Ballard “forced” her to drink alcohol by “tipping her cup up.” The officer says Ballard told her “you're not drinking enough.” That same night, other officers admitted they saw Ballard touch her “back and buttocks while she was inebriated.”
A third account, claims Ballard sent an officer flowers while she was a cadet. That same officer says Ballard once took an apple she was eating, bit it and gave it back. She says Ballard's actions were “confusing” and “crossing the line.”
Additionally, witnesses say Ballard went "easier" on female cadets and described his behavior as flirtatious.
Human resource investigators found enough evidence to take action against Ballard for sexual harassment, saying he violated code of conduct. The allegations fall under the City’s Anti-Harassment Prevention Policy, Section IV, Subsection B of the City’s Employee Information Guide. It states, “any form of harassment related to an individual’s age, sex, race, color, religion, disability, national origin, protected veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic origin, political affiliations, genetic information, marital status or any other protected basis in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws is a violation of this policy and will be treated as a disciplinary matter.
The term “harassment” includes, but is not limited to, slurs, jokes and other verbal, graphic or physical conduct, statements or materials relating to an individual’s age, sex, race, color, religion, disability, national origin, protected veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic origin, political affiliations, genetic information, marital status or any other protected basis in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws.”
According to reports, Ballard, who has been a Chattanooga police officer for at least 23 years, was required to attend sexual harassment training and was given a Last-Chance Agreement (LCA). However, a spokesperson for the police department says Ballard never signed the agreement. The spokesperson explained, "the LCA was superseded by the CPD Discipline Matrix which is a significantly longer period of time than the LCA. The LCA is typically for up to one year, the CPD Discipline Matrix at Level 7 is in effect for five years."