Putnam Pit editor

COOKEVELLE, Tenn. (December 1996) -- City Manager Jimmy Shipley's announcement that he was keeping former Police Captain Wayne Bandy on the city payroll after interim Chief Bill Benson signed a termination order ignored a trove of documents suggesting there had been serious problems in the department for more than a decade.

This amazing story, substantiated with public records, tape-recorded interviews and statements signed by current and former police officers, differs considerably from the official version put out by Shipley. 

While a federal civil rights suit brought against the city spells out allegations that Bandy held a gun to another officer's head, Shipley's official remarks after an "informal" hearing made no mention of corroborating statements by other officers. An investigation by The Pit found that Shipley had access to documents that alleged:


A male officer picked up a female officer by the butt of her holster and threw her against a wall, referred to her over a period of time as "slut-bitch," and on occasion kissed her on the back of the neck. However, the woman has not filed a complaint.

Former Police Officer Jeffery Robichaud, who has since quit, was placed in a headlock, had his ears twisted and arm twisted so hard he required medical attention. The same officer was hit in the groin. The former officer said in a signed statement that he had complained of the behavior to Police Chief Bill Benson during the chief's former tour of duty, but nothing was done. He also reported the abuse to Shipley, according to a signed document.

The abuse continued after Bandy was asked to stop it, and those on the receiving end did not consider it horseplay or roughhousing.

Shipley ignored statements from the city's own employees, and fired Holt for blowing the whistle on Bandy and for refusing to stop the investigation. Bandy now works in the city's Public Works Department.

In a statement apparently drawn up for Shipley and obtained by The Pit from a search of Bandy's personnel file, the city manager said he was "uncomfortable" with firing Bandy because Bandy was a 27-year veteran of the department. He said Bandy denied allegations brought in a federal civil rights suit against the city that Bandy put a gun to Officer Reno Martin's head. He made no mention of a document showing Martin and another police officer had taken polygraph tests, and were found to be truthful.

Shipley stated that the FBI had returned documents given it by Holt after finding no federal crime involved. Holt said he gave the documents to the FBI after he was ordered to not investigate a workers compensation fraud also documented in the files.

"In years past, 'horseplay' and 'rough-housing' were common practice among the ranks in the department," Shipley's statement reads. "We have strived to eliminate this 'locker-room' type atmosphere, and the city of Cookeville has a policy in place prohibiting this type of behavior. It is no longer tolerated. I've known Captain Bandy personally and professionally for many years and I do not believe Wayne Bandy ever intended harm to anyone in that department. My conversations with other personnel in the department reinforces this belief."

Without regard to whether Bandy did or did not do what Reno Martin alleges in his lawsuit, it is clear that Shipley's statement was not forthright.

In a signed statement, former Police Officer Jeffery Robichaud said he told Shipley about the abuse several months before Holt put Bandy on administrative leave. Robichaud declined to speak to The Pit about the incident, but said that if he was subpoenaed, he would testify.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Pit, Holt said Robichaud told him that he had complained to Benson about Bandy years ago when Benson was chief the first time, but nothing was done.

In an interview, Martin said morale in the police department now was very low, with several officers trying to get jobs with the state highway patrol.

Shipley would not be interviewed. Vice Mayor Bettye Vaden said she had no comment.

Depositions in the Martin civil rights case likely will reveal more of what went on behind the scenes, but they are not yet public.