Reno Martin v. Cookeville et al.

No White light at the end of this tunnel
Major Fred White reneges on offer to take polygraph examination

Why won't the chief of police require his major to take the test or suspend him, unless the city doesn't want to know the truth? -- or doesn't want the public to know.

Did a crime occur? Is there a cover up? Does Major Fred White have information? Why does the city deny the allegations brought by an officer who passed a polygraph test but believe a major who won't take one? Won't a lie detector test reveal anything purposeful, like, for instance, who's lying?

Putnam Pit editor

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - A police major who reportedly had been scheduled to take a lie detector test regarding his knowledge of incidents leading to a federal civil rights suit against the city now says taking the test would "serve no purpose," according to Police Chief Bill Benson.

Police Officer Reno Martin alleges in a federal civil rights complaint that Bandy psychologically tormented him for years. Former Police Chief Holt and current Chief Bill Benson determined there was enough evidence to remove Bandy from the workplace. But the city is apparently intent on paying the cost of defending against what its own officers have sworn is true and Bandy was moved to a different job with the city.

What did Bandy allegedly do? Hold a gun to Martin's head, make sexual cracks and lick his finger and put it in the officer's ear, according to the federal case filed in Nashville.

Major Fred C. White Jr., who some suggest runs the police department and could be the next chief, may have witnessed some of the incidents alleged in the federal complaint. But he has withdrawn his offer to have the truthfulness of his statements measured and Benson says he won't force the issue.

Martin and another officer took lie detector tests. Why won't White, who reportedly told city officials he witnessed none of the incidents enumerated in the federal complaint?

Benson said White would make his comments under oath in court if called to testify.

He said he would neither force White to take a lie detector test nor prevent him from taking one.

Meanwhile, the city is quietly funneling $27,000 to the Tennessee Municipal League's self-insurance fund to defend Bandy and the city against the allegations, according to documents obtained by Samuel J. Harris, The Pit's lawyer, from City Manager Jimmy Shipley under the state open records law .

The question some are asking is why should any judge believe anything a Cookeville police officer says if the city does not believe them, especially after Martin took his lie detector test and reportedly was found to be truthful.

If White took a lie detector test, the information would be useful for departmental purposes. Did he know Martin was being abused but fail to act? The question goes beyond the court case and directly to the quality and professionalism of the line of command in a department that is likely to face much more scrutiny in the future.

City Manager Shipley has been less than candid with the public in this matter. His official remarks, after an "informal" hearing, made no mention of corroborating statements by other officers or of the lie detector tests.

An Investigation by The Pit found that Shipley had access to documents that alleged:

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. Instead, he fired Holt.

Shipley ignored statements from the city's own employees, and fired Holt for blowing
the whistle on Bandy and for refusing to stop an investigation into alleged worker's comp fraud within the department, according to a separate civil rights suit filed against the city by Holt..

Shipley 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."

However, 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.

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.

You are visitor No