Dickson, TN - Two Dickson police officers say that they were arrested after being caught up in their department's unethical behavior and small-town politics.
Dickson Police Officer Justin Walton and Dickson Police Officer Rob Peeler were assigned to public works picking up garbage, ordered to lie, and then arrested without being told why.
According to both Officer Walton and Officer Peeler, they responded to a call after a fight and assault at a local Mexican restaurant, Las Plazas. Officer Walton arrived first, then Officer Peeler. Officer Katrina Pulley, who is married to a Dickson Police Sergeant, also arrived on scene.
The people involved, Richard and Tasha Curtis, and Rex Buttery and his wife, have changed their stories several times. The only version that hasn't changed is from the waitress who witnessed the incident. What they can agree on is that they had been eating a meal together and all four had been drinking.
Two of the four people were contractors with the City of Dickson. Tasha Curtis works with the Housing Authority and Rex Buttery is a wrecker driver, who is contacted on rotation schedule to tow vehicles. Apparently something was said, and Richard Curtis got in the face of Rex Buttery, yelling and pointing fingers. The witness account states that Rex then punched Richard, and the waitress called police.
EMS was called for Richard, who was bleeding profusely from his nose. EMS arrived, and Richard refused treatment despite pleas from the officers to be treated.
Officers Walton and Peeler talked to an employee that night about viewing surveillance video of the incident. There was a language barrier and the only footage that the officers could see was of the four people at the front of the restaurant arguing. Both officers said that they worked for 90 minutes trying to figure out what happened and decided to forward the case to a detective so the rest of the video could be obtained and charges brought if it could be determined who the aggressor was.
Officer Walton said that Detective Seth Lyles was assigned to investigate the case. The official version was that one of the four people from the incident had complained that there was bias involved in the case, a claim which both officers deny. Officer Walton said that he was called into Detective Lyles' office along with his supervisor Sergeant Kidd.
Officer Walton said that Detective Lyles took an aggressive tone with him and asked him if he was perplexed or stupid. Officer Walton told Detective Lyles to look at his body cam and that Detective Lyles then said "How long have you been here - two years - I'm the alpha male here, and you better learn your place."
Officer Walton said that Detective Lyles ordered him to add a supplement to his initial report, which he refused to do, since it is against policy having already been submitted and on record. Officer Peeler said that he was then called in and ordered to write a supplement, which he did. Officer Pulley was also asked to write a supplement, but did not.
Neither Officer Walton or Officer Peeler were sure if Detective Lyles had ever obtained all of the video and viewed it. On November 4, 2016, both Officers were told by Detective Lyles that he had sent his investigation to the District Attorney Ray Crouch, Jr. for review. One Officer said that Detective Lyles and the DA were close friends who often socialized and went fishing together.
In an outlandish move, Dickson Police Chief Ricky Chandler then had both officers suddenly transferred to Public Works, where they were assigned to pick up trash on the side of the road. The officers were told to dress warm and that they couldn't appeal their "transfer" to Public Works. Both Officers said that it was beyond embarrassing because all of the local police officers would drive by to see them picking up garbage. No action was taken against Officer Pulley, who was also present at the scene of the assault.
While working with Public Works during the week of December 7, 2016, the officers were in a Public Works vehicle that was involved in a collision. Both Officers said that only the driver of the vehicle had access to a seat belt, and that the other seat belts had been removed from the vehicle. The officers were injured with back injuries and were out of work for the rest of that week because of their injuries.
Officer Walton requested the Highway Patrol investigate the collision, but the request was denied, and it was investigated by a Dickson Police Officer.
The officers said that the Public Works Supervisor told them to say that they were wearing their seat belts, which did not exist in the vehicle. Both officer said they were told by the Public Works Supervisor to say that they were working for the Police Department at the time of the collision. Officer Walton said that he wrote 'Public Works/City of Dickson Police Department' but that the official report said 'Police Department.' The officers advised that they were honest in their reports.
The officers believe that Chief Chandler realized he had violated policy by making Officer Walton and Officer Peeler pick up trash for Public Works. Suddenly, both officers were then ordered back onto patrol.
Both Officer Walton and Officer Peeler said that they were assigned to ride with their Sergeant and they were instructed to keep their body cam on unless they went to the bathroom. They also said that they were not allowed to eat at home or with family but had to remain with their Sergeants, who told them they had to keep eyes on them their entire shift.
Officer Walton said he was then called to the office with his Sergeant and Lieutenant, and handed a letter stating he was on administrative leave without pay for being under criminal investigation. He said that he saw what appeared to be an identical letter for Officer Peeler. Officer Peeler was on vacation at the time and wasn't notified. Officer Peeler said that Chief Chandler told the media a week before he actually found out that both he and Officer Walton had been placed on administrative leave without pay.
A grand jury held a special session on February 23rd and issued indictments against Officer Walton and Officer Peeler for Destruction and Tampering with Governmental Records. Neither officer has been advised about any of the details of the indictment, and they can only speculate that it involves the collision report.
Both Officers went to the Magistrate's Office and turned themselves in. The grand jury foreman set their bond at $250 cash apiece. No other conditions of release were issued and the two officers' next court date is set for March 13th.
Officer Walton and Officer Peeler have hired an attorney and entered a plea of not guilty. In addition, their attorney has filed a discovery motion, but has yet to have anything made available to him about what exactly these officers are accused of doing, or why they are being charged.
The officers have asked to meet with the Chief more than once but have been denied. They have talked to the City Administrator about the way they were treated but were met with the response that "I just write the checks." An appeals hearing for their disciplinary action is scheduled for March 6th with the city administrator but neither officer believes that anything will change.
Officer Walton said that he has learned that an internal investigation has been started now against him and Officer Peeler, which will be conducted by an agency detective and commander. Officer Peeler said that he lives on the highway and that a Dickson police vehicle is watching his house 24/7. He also said that he was planning on putting a privacy fence around his property so his stepchild could play in peace.
Officer Peeler said that he is a member of the PBA and has contacted them. Both Officers said they have asked for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to handle their internal investigation but was told that the request would have to go through the FBI. Both Officer Walton and Officer Peeler said that they are frightened at what might happen and are physically afraid of retaliation.
And the Chief's claims to local media of an 'independent investigation' that he made to local media on February 27, 2017? Not true, according to both officers. Everything has been handled by someone within the Dickson Police Department.
At the time of this writing, nobody appears to have been charged for the initial October assault.
Both officers said that they "were just doing their jobs, that they have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong."
Why were police officers assigned to public works? Why were they put in an unsafe vehicle without seatbelts? Why were they ordered to lie? Why haven't they been notified of the reason for the charges against them? Who is really handling this "independent investigation?"
Please spread the word about what is happening to these officers, and let's demand that the truth come out from the City of Dickson.