By Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn
Given that there is some confusion over recent events, I offer the following summary about where we are, how we got here, and where we are headed with regards to the Oak Ridge Police Department investigation.
The ORPD has seen a total turnover rate of 45 percent in the last four years, having lost 34 of our 76 employees. Five of those individuals have departed in the last four months. Since February, all Council members have received communications from at least seven former officers, three current officers, and countless citizens expressing concerns about leadership and a potentially hostile work environment. Others have communicated anonymously citing similar concerns and attributing their anonymity to fears of retaliation.
On February 9, during a five-hour televised meeting, and in front of the largest audience any of us had ever seen, City Council formally committed toÂ investigateÂ the root causes behind the turnover, morale, and policy issues in the Police Department.
The resolution that was ultimately approved was brought forward by Council member Kelly Callison who stated that â€œWeÂ think thatâ€™s a broad, a veryÂ broadÂ term that allows anÂ investigator, anÂ independentÂ investigatorÂ to look at the issues that might be presentâ€¦â€Â At the end of the meeting, councilmember Chuck Hope stated,Â â€œTheÂ investigationÂ that weâ€™ve come to an agreement among the seven of us was reached unanimouslyâ€¦thereâ€™s enough information that it warrants anÂ investigationâ€¦â€
During this same meeting, Council committed to ensure that the investigation would allow for the anonymity of all participants and would include both current and past employees. Mr. Callison also suggested that council select Municipal Technical Advisory Service, specifically Rex Barton, to perform the work. Council did not select MTAS at the time, but agreed to hold a special meeting to select an entity to conduct the investigation and define its parameters. Information regarding the other resolutions that Council rejected can be foundÂ here. [Read more…]