Poor discipline is old story in Cookeville PD

By Geoff Davidian
Editor, The Putnam Pit

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 4, 2002) -- There is a history of recklessness among Cookeville police for years before a cop blew a pet dog's head off on Thursday.

Let's start with Wayne Bandy holding the gun to Reno Martin's head although "he didn't mean nothin'" City Manager Jim Shipley said when he transferred Bandy to another department and fired Chief Holt for blowing the whistle.

A police major who witnessed the events refused to take a lie detector test.  Later, the city surgically extracted Bob Terry from a field of more qualified and better educated candidates and named him police chief, despite his questionable on-the-job behavior.

Then the problems really began. There was the incident where Terry demanded an internal affairs investigation into a female employee who blew the whistle on him for using the police pager to receive sexually suggestive messages from a married female employee, who then quit, and then there was the incident of Terry sending porno from the police department to the DA, now-councilman Shelton and others; then there was the incident when drunken cop Zac Birdwell shot another cop after a drinking contest with other officers at another cop's house. The problem -- Birdwell's victim was trying to prevent Birdwell from going after a citizen. Birdwell remained free for days on end and finally was given pre-trial diversion which means he shot a cop and wasn't punished. Then there was the report last week -- one City Manager Shipley won't confirm -- that Terry had an accident with his motorcycle and was seen glassy eyed, possibly drunk. Now a North Carolina family passing through town is abused by a police officer and the Chief of Police now blames the Tennessee Highway Patrol for asking the city police for help.

I would say that the institution of the
Cookeville police department has been poorly managed for years; the city manager lets it go because he knows everyone, the DA forgives all illegal behavior and the police think they can do anything they want. If this was not the history of the department, citizens would be more sensitive to the cop being afraid the dog would bite him. But sorry, by the exhibition of such stupidity and reckless violence over time, Cookeville police don't get the benefit of the doubt anymore. Maybe if they clean up, they can get respect back. But so long as they get away with everything, there's no reason to believe the cops had any reason to fear punishment.