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Two officers suspended recently

Mary Hinds maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:51 PM

Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen suspended two officers from duty recently. One situation was serious enough to cause Bowen to turn investigation over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Bowen said Det. Steve Gordon is the subject of a TBI investigation. There was speculation Gordon was accused of acting inappropriately with a female motorist. Bowen flatly denied that was the case.

"Absolutely not," Bowen said. "I can't say a lot about it other than it happened in November, and it has been turned over to the TBI."

Bowen said the incident happened when Gordon was off duty.

"He did something off duty that was a violation of our policies," Bowen said. "He was suspended from duty for 30 days, then resigned to take a job outside law enforcement before the 30 days were up."

Bowen said at no time was Gordon under arrest, adding once he and his investigators heard Gordon's explanation about the incident, it was decided to suspend him and call in the TBI.

TBI Spokesperson Kristin Helm confirmed the state agency was investigating Gordon.

"The investigation is complete at this point," Helm said. "They came to us, and the district attorney general opened an investigation. The investigation was taken over by the district attorney general from the 13th Judicial District since the DA there recused himself."

As to the exact nature of the allegations, Helm said she was limited in how much information she could release at this time.

"I can tell you that he was accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female," Helm said, adding the female in question was not a minor.

The ball is in the DA's court now.

"He will determine how to proceed," Helm said.

Bowen said Officer David McKinley was also suspended for off-duty conduct in an unrelated incident. He said at the end of December, his department received a call about a disturbance at a local bar.

"We got a call about a disorderly person," Bowen said, adding McKinley was not in a fight, but was asked to leave the bar. "He was not arrested. It was like any other disturbance call; the bar owner opted not to press charges."

McKinley was suspended for 10 days and is back on the job.

McKinley is a familiar name in the department. In April 2010, he and Officer Mitchell McDannald were involved in a shooting that left Greg Thompson dead.

An officer at the time said after witnessing Thompson driving in an "erratic" manner, they pursued him. After a three to four minute, low-speed pursuit, Thompson wrecked his car and, when he was approached by officers, he was reportedly "very non-compliant."

McKinley ordered Thompson out of the vehicle and when Thompson did not comply, McKinley began to descend into the ditch with his weapon drawn to forcibly remove Thompson from the car. As McKinley approached the vehicle, he slipped and fell, accidentally discharging his firearm. McDannald said at the time he thought his fellow officer was being fired upon, so he fired his weapon killing Thompson at the scene.

A Wilson County grand jury declined to indict the two officers, and the incident was declared an accidental shooting. The police department is currently the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Thompson.

Bowen said neither officer was arrested and the department handled both cases correctly.

"We dealt with both situations correctly." he said. "Both were things that happened off duty. For more people, what they do off the job usually doesn't affect what happens on the job. But when you're a cop, that's part of the job."

Bowen said officers are held to a higher standard, and he expects better of officers under his management, on and off duty.

"This is not what we expect from our officers," he said. "We have ethics policies, and we enforce them."

He said one thing that weighed heavily in favor of both officers was that they didn't try to deny anything happened.

"Both officers readily admitted what happened and took responsibility for their actions," Bowen said. "That's kind of unheard of these days. Both incidents were dealt with swiftly."

He asked everyone remember that while police officers are, and should be, held to a higher standard, they are just people.

"Police officers are human beings," Bowen said.

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