Chief’s attorney calls it one more effort to vilify Akagi
The organization that certifies police officers in Tennessee has asked state and federal authorities to investigate whether Oak Ridge Police Chief James T. Akagi violated state and federal laws by possessing a firearm after being issued an ex parte order of protection during divorce proceedings in Blount County three years ago.
The April 27 letter from Ray Farris, assistant director of the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission, was sent to Mike Flynn, district attorney general in the Fifth Judicial District in Maryville; Dave Clark, district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Clinton; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville.
“Documents provided to our office indicate that an order of protection was issued by the Blount County Court against Chief Akagi on April 19, 2012,” Farris said in the letter. “During the effective period of this order of protection, Chief Akagi submitted his firearms qualifications scores to the Commission, which appears to be a violation of the aforementioned order of protection.”
But Tasha Blakney, an attorney for the police chief, has said Akagi was not prohibited from carrying a firearm.
“I am absolutely confident that there has been no violation of state or federal law in this family law matter with regard to the ex parte order of protection that was temporarily entered and subsequently dismissed,” Blakney said Thursday. “They simply don’t carry any implications for an individual’s Second Amendment rights. That’s just a function of understanding the way that Tennessee law works.”
Blakney said she didn’t see a problem with the chief’s submission of firearms qualifications scores.
“I think he followed the rules that he was supposed to follow,” Blakney said.
She said the ex parte order was temporary and dismissed. The Blount County Circuit Court has said there was an agreed order dismissing a petition filed by Akagi’s ex-wife Kristie Michelle Akagi and the temporary order of protection. Those were issued in April 2012 and dismissed in June 2013.
Blakney said an ex parte order does not have the same implications as an order of protection, which involves a different type of proceeding. She said an ex parte order is entered without a hearing, based solely on allegations from one party, and the other side is not give a chance to respond. An ex parte order is a temporary order pending resolution of “big picture issues,” Blakney said.
“It’s not uncommon to see those in domestic cases,” Blakney said.
In this case, when it was time to resolve those issues, the ex parte order was dismissed, and no actual order was ever entered, she said.
She said an order of protection can be more stringent. It would have included a hearing before a judge, and a finding would have been made.
Blakney expressed optimism that a written opinion by Clark will substantiate a preliminary statement he gave to the media.
“Chief Akagi is hopeful that once this formal process if followed, that this chapter can be closed once and for all, and we can move on and start talking about more productive things in the Oak Ridge community,” Blakney said. “He’s hopeful and he’s grateful that this process can be followed.”
The Oak Ridge City Council has declined to look into the question raised by POST, despite a request from Council member Trina Baughn. Among other things, those who expressed reluctance to investigate whether the chief violated the order of protection by carrying a firearm said it would be up to Blount County authorities to determine any violation, and city officials seemed hesitant to get involved in divorce proceedings. Some officials also say it’s rare, perhaps unprecedented, for City Council to investigate an individual.
Kevin Walters, spokesman for POST, which is based in Nashville, said the organization, which is comprised of law enforcement officers, wants the opinions of the DAs and U.S. attorney regarding whether any criminal activity occurred.
“We want them to weigh in on this before we take any further action,” Walters said April 24.
He said there were two complaints related to the order of protection and the chief’s carrying a firearm. One complaint came from a former ORPD lieutenant and another came from an unidentified person, Walters said.
“That’s what sparked all this,” he said.
POST voted unanimously on April 17 to send the letters asking for legal opinions, Walters said. It’s not clear what POST might do next.
“We would take action based on what those entities say,” Walters said, referring to the DAs and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We would act accordingly.”
Blakney called the renewed questions about the order of protection one more effort to vilify Akagi. She said divorce proceedings are generally considered private matters unless they affect someone’s ability to perform their duties. Blakney said the chief promptly provided documents to POST when he learned of the most recent inquiry.
“It’s unfortunate that this continues to take away the focus from where it ought to be in Oak Ridge,” she said. “This is again another effort to try to undermine the chief of police through these attacks. In the end, the chief will be grateful that there will be a final and formal word on this issue, and he hopes that the people who continue to raise this issue will respect this process and the formal opinions, which will be issued and, we are confident, will confirm that the chief has violated no laws.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See a copy of Farris’ April 27 letter to Flynn here: POST Letter to Mike Flynn.