Murfreesboro Chief Durr Has Ten Big Problems
May 16, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — It’s been slightly over a month since the arrest of the Murfreesboro Ten at Hobgood Elementary School and the MPD’s decision to double down on stupid, justifying their violations of Tennessee Law concerning detention and arrests of juveniles through “confidentiality.”
Chief Karl Durr stood by his promise of transparency and conducted an investigation through an After-Action Committee. The Committee’s recently released report, while redacted, reveals larger problems than the Murfreesboro Ten’s arrests over asinine charges and the MPD’s violations of Tennessee laws on arresting and detaining kids. Chief Durr now faces the challenge of teaching his subordinates how to correctly file court petitions, follow the chain of command, communicate with each other and school officials in a timely fashion, and, well, follow the law.
An Officer Chrystal Templeton obtained ten delinquency petitions for “criminal responsibility for the conduct of another” on April 14 after a YouTube video of ten children “fighting” during a basketball game came to the MPD’s attention. She did this while her direct supervisors, a Sergeant Walker and Sergeant Scott Newberg, attended a bi-monthly principal’s meeting of the Murfreesboro City Schools. One of the ten petitions was denied, a fact conveniently escaping Templeton’s attention. She instructed Hobgood School Safety Education Officer (SSEO) Mark Todd to make the collars. Todd wanted no part in the arrests and immediately informed Hobgood’s principal, Dr. Sandy Garrett, of what was to come.
Templeton informed Dr. Garrett around 5 p.m. that four of her students would be arrested at the school the next day. She assured Dr. Garrett the arrests would be “low-key,” no child would be handcuffed, and Templeton would be on site to assist in the arrests. That didn’t satisfy Garrett or Murfreesboro City School’s Director of Communications, Lisa Trail, who started making phone calls to Templeton’s superiors pleading that the arrests take place elsewhere. When those pleas fell on deaf ears, Dr. Garrett and MCS Director Linda Gilbert made a simple request: The Friday arrests would occur before school dismissal. That request, as we now know, wouldn’t be honored.
Templeton remained in contact with Dr. Garrett that Friday, texting her requests for information on the Murfreesboro Ten’s families. SSEO Mark Todd contacted one of his superiors and requested relief from his duties at Hobgood that day because he felt ill. That relief would be Officer Chris Williams, who had no idea the arrests would occur, and on learning of the plan to arrest the four students pleaded with Templeton and his superiors to exercise discretion and arrest the kids elsewhere. Williams wanted no part in the debacle, but was ordered by supervisors to assist Templeton in the arrests when she arrived. Templeton didn’t make the arrests, though. That “honor” would fall on Officers Jeff Carroll and Albert Miles, two patrol officers who handcuffed a child in the school office, removed the cuffs once the child was in the back of the squad car, and took the children to the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center.
The timing and sequence of these arrests bothered Officer Williams so much that from the moment he knew they’d happen, Williams called anyone and everyone he could to either prevent the onsite arrests or mitigate the embarrassment to the children. In an ironic twist, his point of contact was PIO Major Clyde Adkison, previously quoted in our last post regarding the Murfreesboro Ten. Major Adkison directed Officer Williams to speak with a patrol supervisor, since patrol officers made the arrests, and Adkison was concerned with “liability” should the arrests not occur. Later that day, Adkison would advise Williams to “calm down” and “not act hastily” when Williams expressed a desire to resign over the handling of the arrests.
Adkison’s concerns over liability, and the hesitation of Wiliams and Todd to see these arrests occur were all well founded. An arrest happy cop obtained delinquency petitions on bogus charges and coordinated arrests with lies to a school official. One arrest and detention should never have occurred. Every arrest and detention occurred contrary to state laws regarding the arrest and detention of juveniles. During every step of this insane scenario, no officer involved demonstrated even a basic ability to timely communicate with their brothers and sisters in blue. Chief Durr is in for a bumpy road during his tenure as Murfreesboro’s top cop, but he’s committed to making Murfreesboro Police Great Again.
This report is not the end of this investigation. The Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting an internal affairs investigation regarding this incident,” the chief said in a statement. “Accountability is key to maintaining public trust and confidence, and just as we are accountable to the community, our supervisors and officers are accountable to the policies of the agency.”
Durr’s recent actions demonstrate his commitment to accountability. Major Adkison is currently on administrative leave for his role in this incident, and more heads could roll once the Office of Professional Responsibility concludes its investigation. If Chief Durr is really committed to public and policy accountability, one suggestion would be overhauling the MPD’s policies and procedures on arresting and detaining juveniles. The public’s trust is easily maintained when police procedure actually follows the law, and Rutherford County’s does not, since their policies require children be brought to the detention center for every offense unless an officer simply issues a verbal warning.
The transparency and accountability steps Chief Durr has taken are great moves towards maintaining his job security. Another great step would be relieving Officer Templeton of her badge and dropping all charges against the Murfreesboro Ten. We don’t exactly live in a perfect world, so Chief Durr taking some action, however small, is commendable. Not sufficient, but a start.