Dickson, TN - Two Dickson Police Officers, Justin Walton and Robert Peeler, have been placed on administrative leave after being arrested on charges of destruction and tampering with governmental records.
According to WKRN, the charges resulted from how they handled an incident from October, 2016. Both Officer Walton and Officer Peeler responded to a report of a fight at a Dickson Mexican restaurant. The officers said that there was no clear evidence as to who started the fight, and that both sides accused the other.
Officer Walton and Officer Peeler were able to view some surveillance footage of the altercation, but it did not provide the best angle to see what happened. The restaurant employees who were working that night did not know how to access the equipment to play back the camera, so actual video of the incident could not viewed. Both Officers said no one was charged on that night because there was no clear evidence as to who was at fault.
Officer Peeler said that all four participants in the altercation could have potentially been charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication but that evidence for assault charges wasn't clear enough. He said that after working the case for 90 minutes that he and Officer Walton believed it was best to wait and turn the case over to detectives for further investigation.
Turning cases over to investigation is standard procedure in many agencies because patrol officers have a limited amount of time to work on a case due to pending calls. Detectives are assigned cases such as these that need additional investigation.
The important thing to note here is that people don't need to be arrested immediately at the scene. Probable cause for arrest can be developed at any point in the future, so the officers did nothing wrong by not arresting people when they didn't believe that they had probable cause. We see nothing unethical or abnormal about these actions. What happened next is less clear.
Days after the fight, some of those involved in the fight accused the officers of being biased. The accusers either work for the City of Dickson or contract with the city.
The detective assigned to handle the case did not think that the officers' reports lines up with the facts of the case. Considering that the officers were unable to establish the facts of the case, so they passed the report on to the detective to discover the facts, this shouldn't be an issue.
Both Officers said that things got "heated" when a detective talked with them about the case, and that it got "personal" for the detective. Dickson City Police Chief Ricky Chandler said that a detective had come to him with concerns about the case, and that the detective had told him that the evidence did not match up with the report, and if it was a mistake or intentional. The District Attorney would not comment on the case.
Officer Peeler said “We treated that call and those people just like we do every call and every person." Officer Walton said “I’ve arrested friends, taken friends to jail. If I am going to do my job, I do my job.” When asked by local media if he or Officer Peeler had covered up anything, Officer Walton "emphatically" said no. Officer Peeler denied that either he or Officer Walton tampered with evidence, and that he believed that they were being "railroaded."
Both Officer Walton and Officer Peeler were arrested and been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. The charges are a Class A misdemeanor. The Officers' attorney said that the charges are "baseless" and "without merit."
We don't know all of the details of this case, but criminal charges for a report don't line up. The charges apparently stem from the officers' reports being viewed as inaccurate.Inaccuracy in a report isn't a criminal offense unless it was intentional. Intentionally lying in a case would only make sense by some sort of cover-up where they would hope that nobody would examine the case closely.
However, both of these officers passed the case on to a detective so that the detective could examine the case closely. If the officers had actually intentionally lied in the report, they'd essentially be turning over all of the evidence to a detective who was all but guaranteed to find out the truth. Something in this story doesn't make sense.
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