Note: This story was last updated at 10 a.m. Aug. 18.
Oak Ridge Police Chief James T. “Jim” Akagi is retiring in October, officials said Friday.
The retirement announcement was made by the Oak Ridge City Manager’s Office.
Akagi has been police chief since July 1, 2011. His retirement is effective October 20.
Akagi has led 64 sworn members of the Oak Ridge Police Department, managed the acquisition of new equipment for the department, achieved funding for a new radio and police software system, and increased training opportunities for Oak Ridge officers, a press release said.
“The Oak Ridge Police Department has progressed in its levels of professionalism on a number of fronts,” City Manager Mark Watson said in the press release. “Chief Akagi has led those efforts, particularly in the areas of external relations with our schools and our minority communities. After 35 years in federal and local law enforcement, Chief Akagi desires to devote more time to family and friends.”
Akagi will transition day-to-day command to Deputy Chief Robin Smith between now and his retirement date, and he will be assisting Smith, who has been acting chief, with information that is needed about specific departmental missions, the press release said.
Akagi, who is not working under a contract with the city, was placed on paid administrative leave on Thursday, July 19, He was still on leave this week and wasn’t working “on site,” Watson said Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear Friday evening if that was still the case.
On Wednesday, Watson said he had had two discussions with Akagi since last week. Watson said he has looked at some “material stuff” in three letters sent anonymously in June and July to city officials and the media, among other people, and he had been evaluating some other issues also. Two of the letters weren’t factual, Watson said, and the third one included more information and had taken more time to evaluate. It was a lot of information to pull together, Watson said. He had not talked to officers, the city manager said Wednesday.
The letters were not signed, but they said they were from Oak Ridge Police Department employees. One letter said it represented an “overwhelming majority” of ORPD members. The letters raised a number of concerns, including about the work environment, policy decisions, and turnover, and they asked for Akagi’s removal or termination. They also sought an investigation by the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (P.O.S.T.) or some other “independent and unbiased agency.” They said conditions had not improved since a 2015 review by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee and have gotten worse instead.
It wasn’t clear Friday evening if the letters or any other issues played a role in the retirement announcement. Oak Ridge Today has asked the city about that, but we haven’t received a response yet to that specific question. It’s not clear how the process might have been affected, if at all, by Oak Ridge Electric Director Jack Suggs serving as acting city manager while Watson was out of town in July when Akagi was placed on administrative leave.
The city has responded to a few other questions that were raised by readers about the police chief’s retirement and that Oak Ridge Today sent to the city. Watson has confirmed that Akagi will keep his retirement and P.O.S.T. certification. Whatever is allowed under P.O.S.T. will determine his concealed carry status, Watson said. His city vehicle is in the process of being turned in. Akagi will receive standard salary until October 20, when he will be “eligible to receive payment for any accrued vacation time remaining as is normal practice for all city employees,” the city said in a brief statement. Employees are vested in the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System after five years. (Akagi has worked here for seven.)
Akagi sent a letter to staff on Friday afternoon, which is reprinted here:
From: Akagi James T.
Sent: Friday, August 17, 2018 3:04 PM
To: Police (All)
Subject: Thanks and Farewell
After more than 35 years in law enforcement, I will retire in October. No words can express how grateful I am for the privilege of working alongside you. Our team and this place have been my family and home for the past seven years. Working with people so spectacularly talented was a blessing to me, and it will be a blessing to you as well as you continue to perform the critical mission of providing public safety for Oak Ridge and its citizens. It has been incredibly humbling to lead such a dedicated, capable and professional staff. Thank you for teaching and inspiring me every day, and allowing me to do the same for you. You created some great memories along the way, and for these I am most appreciative.
Surprisingly, this was not a hard decision to make. In the past few weeks I’ve had many opportunities to experience civilian life at its best – spending time with Jana and our children, visiting old friends and travelling. I’m embarrassed to admit these were somewhat “new” experiences for me, as I came to the realization public service had eclipsed my personal time with loved ones for the past 20 years. In March 1998 I accepted my first command of a DEA office in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and I haven’t truly been “off duty” since, so retirement is something I’m very much looking forward to and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun!
If I could leave you with one request, it would be to please consider setting the same personal goal as I did seven years ago – leave this organization in better shape than when you arrived. If you keep this in mind, you will never truly leave ORPD; your legacy will remain in those you teach, mentor and train. Strive for excellence, watch over your brothers and sisters and make it home to your loved ones at the end of every shift. You are well trained, well equipped and well prepared. It is my hope our paths will cross again. Jana and I plan to stay in the area, and you can reach me at my cell phone, [REDACTED], or my email, [REDACTED]. It is with sincere gratitude and appreciation I end by saying what I’ve said to you so many times before – thanks for all you do and stay safe.
Chief of Police
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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