Note: This story was last updated at 8:53 a.m. July 2.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is not investigating, two district attorneys said there was no violation, and the state agency that certifies police officers has completed its activities, officials said Wednesday.
That would appear to end the inquiry of Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi by the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, or POST. In April, POST asked three authorities, including one federal official and two state officials, whether Akagi had 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 response from all three officials has been “no,” according to letters sent to POST.
Oak Ridge Today reported on the response from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as reported by Akagi’s attorney Tasha Blakney, on Tuesday. The two state officials—Dave Clark, district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Clinton, and Mike Flynn, district attorney general in the Fifth Judicial District in Maryville—sent their response to POST on Wednesday.
“The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and our offices have concluded that based on what you submitted, there never has been an order of protection issued against Chief Akagi and thus no violation of an order of protection could have occurred,” Clark and Flynn said in a letter to Ray Farris, assistant director of the POST Commission. “Any criminal investigation in this case is closed.”
They said the matter had been referred to the TBI because of the POST request, as Flynn said in an April 30 letter. But there apparently wasn’t a formal request to investigate.
On Wednesday, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine confirmed that the agency is not investigating Akagi.
“We did not receive a formal request to investigate,” DeVine said.
The TBI would only open an investigation at the request of the DA, and that did not happen, DeVine said.
Clark and Flynn said there are significant differences between an ex parte order of protection and an actual order of protection, and they said it was regrettable that an April 27 letter from POST indicated there had been an order of protection issued against Akagi and that there “appears to be a violation of the aforementioned order of protection.”
“It may be that you and perhaps your complainant(s) are confused by the very substantial legal and practical differences between an ex parte (sometimes referred to as a temporary) order of protection and an actual order of protection,” Clark and Flynn said. “Ex parte orders of protection have no significance with respect to criminal violations.”
Meanwhile, D. Scott Wilder, assistant general counsel for fire prevention and law enforcement in the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, said POST has completed all its activity related to the Akagi inquiry.
“The only way that POST would become involved in further action in the matter is if future criminal charges were pursued by the State of Tennessee,” Wilder wrote to Blakney on Wednesday.
Wilder said the POST Commission Board of Directors voted unanimously on April 17 to have the inquiry regarding the chief and his carrying of a firearm directed to the “appropriate state and federal jurisdictions because they (board) were unsure if a final order was in place or not.” The POST Commission reviewed material it had been supplied and was under the impression that Akagi might have been under an order of protection.
“Luckily, this is why the POST rules exist to forward matters to the appropriate jurisdiction for clarification and investigation,” Wilder told Blakney. “For any inconvenience this may have caused you and your client, we are truly sorry.”
The POST inquiry was triggered by two complaints related to the order of protection and the chief’s carrying a firearm. One complaint came from a former Oak Ridge Police Department lieutenant who hasn’t been named and another came from an unidentified person.
Wilder said POST does not actively start investigations and only gets involved when a “potential instance has been brought to their attention.”
“Once notice has been brought to the Commission’s attention, they do a preliminary investigation to determine what course of action should be pursued,” Wilder said. “The majority of accusations turn out to be nothing more than an administrative infraction; however, the second it appears there may have been a violation of the law, the POST Commission Board of Directors will be presented with the preliminary findings and vote whether or not the preliminary investigation is to be directed to the appropriate agency or jurisdiction. Once this (is) done, POST steps away from the matter since POST is not a law enforcement agency and has no authority to investigate potential criminal matters.”
The POST inquiry came after Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn called for an investigation of the police chief starting at a February 9 meeting. Baughn, who has the support of some current and former officers, has raised questions about the ORPD turnover rate, the chief’s hiring four years ago, his carrying of a firearm under the ex parte order of protection, and his temperament, among other issues. But most of her investigative requests have been denied by Council.
The Council has opted instead to launch a review of the ORPD. Approved in a 4-3 vote in May, the review is being conducted by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee, and it is focused on turnover, morale, and administrative policies. It could cost around $23,000 and be complete in October. The review could include interviews with about 125 people, including roughly 76 current ORPD employees as well as several dozen former workers who have left in the roughly four years since Akagi started.
See Clark and Flynn’s letter here: Mike Flynn and Dave Clark Letter to POST.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2015 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.