Red Bank police chief refuses to meet over violence, profanity

Violence and offenses against First Amendment free speech rights are matters of public concern in Red Bank, as officials turn a deaf ear to public complaints. Dewun Harper, left; his grandma, Jannie Harden; Allen DeBerry, and Roderick DeBerry are defending against criminal charges against the young men. (Photo David Tulis)

Cruisers are parked outside city hall / police department in Red Bank, Tenn. (Photo David Tulis)

Red Bank exists under a storm cloud of its own making, a city where the mayor says he has no input in the way the city is run, that he is a mere figurehead without authority to speak on his city’s chief point of interface with members of the public — the police department.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

Mayor John Roberts says I should not speak with him, the chief executive, but attorney Arnold Stulce.

I have been asking for an interview with Chief Simpson for more than a week, but my phone appears to be blocked and he has not returned my call to discuss the police culture that created a riotous enforcement action against a group of African-American UTC students who were sent into a panic by a dozen police officers May 6 at the Gallery, a rental venue.

I had asked to meet him to so I could defend First Amendment rights and to encourage a halt to police use of obscenities while officers are on the clock, a request Mr. Stulce calls “unprecedented” while the city is prosecuting criminal cases in which these problems are in evidence. The city is pressing a prosecution against four students in its city court in cases passed until July.

In an email Thursday, Mr. Stulce says my press businesses complaints about his officers is being seriously considered.

I of course passed along your request for a meeting with the Police Chief in the context of your email to me from Monday afternoon and which followed our telephone conversation from last Friday.

As I shared with you when we spoke, the request for an interview to discuss policy matter, particularly with a related legal matter pending is, to my knowledge unprecedented.  So while the several concerns you raised are being addressed internally and seriously, the Chief of Police, with the advice and consent of City Administration of course, respectfully declines your request.

I do appreciate your willingness to deal with these issues in a professional manner. Etc.

Earlier this week I sent Mr. Stulce a letter outlining four areas of concern for my reader and the listener at 92.7 NoogaRadio. These are areas that will enhance local economy and free markets, and contribute to a general increase of prosperity in Red Bank and beyond.

I appreciate your call late Friday regarding my request for an interview with Chief Simpson regarding police conduct in City of Red Bank.

The four items I would like to mention to you as city attorney concern abusive practices that offend constitutionally guaranteed rights and rights under statute. If these customs are not restrained by law and police department general orders, residents and visitors to the city will fall under distress and anguish at your hand, and the city will face claims against its purse for oppressive acts and a decline in its reputation.

(1) Officers are threatening people with confiscation of personal property if the citizen uses that personal property, namely smartphones, to make a record of police interactions with the public.

In 2015 your officer threatened my reporters with confiscation of his phone if he did not stop recording an encounter with the public, a seizure “for evidence.” On May 6th, at the Gallery, officers seized the phones of 2 young men who are recording police conduct. Dewun Harper and Allen DeBerry were arrested and their phones seized for being present during a police raid of a party of black students. Reporting on the incident indicates a strong hint of anti-black racism.

No personal item can be seized without a warrant, and this case, being heard by city court judge Johnny Houston today, smells strongly of abusive charge stacking to justify the threat to take — and the taking of — these two men’s phones for more than 20 days.

(2) The use of obscenities and profanity by city employees while on city business, specifically the word f**k.

(3) Does the corporation comply with the Supreme Court’s policy on traffic stops which it allows on compelling State interest grounds, but for which it imposes numerous rules, including that of publication? State of Tennessee v. Hicks, State of Tennessee v. Downey.

(4) A fourth item regarding traffic enforcement I will mention when we have chance to meet.

On the whole, I’d like to evaluate where Red Bank stands among Tennessee cities, and how we might elevate its prospects and reputation by being a city in which its public officials respect the people’s rights and do everything in their power to stay out of their way as they conduct harmless, innocent and hopefully fruitful activities.

I look forward to our meeting.

Maybe not now, but in the future. The impulse for municipal and free market reports does not die easily with me, and I intend to pursue this effort of public service on behalf of common people who have perhaps nothing more than a passing interest in Red Bank.


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