CLINTON—A former Oak Ridge Police Department sergeant alleged in a lawsuit filed this week that other employees retaliated against him and he was forced to resign last year after he complained that a lieutenant had sent him live ammunition for use in a training session.
Mark Coffey, who resigned in October 2011, filed the lawsuit in Anderson County Circuit Court on Monday. He is seeking a total of $600,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
Coffey, who started working for the department in 1994, alleged that Lt. Brad Jenkins first sent him formerly live .38-caliber ammunition—rather than blanks—for use in the training session, called an “active shooter response.” The lead and powder had been removed from that ammunition.
Coffey said he received permission to remove that ammunition from the training session, but he alleged that Jenkins also sent live .223-caliber ammunition for use in the training session, instead of blank rounds.
“If that ammunition had not been discovered to be live and had been used in the training session, it could have resulted in serious injury to or death of one or more of the role players,” the lawsuit alleged. It said Coffey’s children were present as role players.
Coffey said he filed a complaint in August 2011, alleging that Jenkins had been “grossly negligent and deliberately indifferent,” and Jenkins received a written reprimand in September.
After he filed the complaint, however, other employees began a systematic campaign to retaliate against him, Coffey alleged, claiming that Jenkins, Sgt. Matthew Tedford, and Capt. Mike Uher began providing “false and misleading information” to the new police chief, James T. Akagi. Uher and Jenkins said Coffey had used weapons he wasn’t supposed to use, and Jenkins claimed he intentionally damaged a shotgun, Coffey alleged.
The former sergeant claimed he was “constructively discharged” after he was re-assigned to work under Jenkins, and he resigned because of the alleged retaliation and fears for his personal safety.
On Wednesday, Akagi said he hadn’t received or been served with a copy of Coffey’s lawsuit.
“As it’s pending litigation, I am going to decline to comment,” Akagi said. He said the officers involved also would not be able to comment.