published Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Cleveland, Tenn., city officials support Police Chief Wes Snyder despite controversy

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Some city officials expressed confidence Monday in Cleveland's police chief.

"I personally have confidence in Chief [Wes] Snyder and his professional ability," said Mayor Tom Rowland at the City Council meeting. "Not knowing how information was presented and received by various people, I have confidence that it was all handled adequately and handled as it should be."

Monday was the first time the council met since news stories broke about police misconduct and the first time Rowland and most of the council members have made any public statements about the controversy surrounding the chief.

A series of stories in the Chattanooga Times Free Press in the past three weeks has reported that Snyder failed to launch any official investigations into allegations that members of his police force were having sex with teenage girls and abusing drugs in 2008.

Snyder said the allegations didn't include enough specifics to warrant an investigation, but in May 2008, he instructed Assistant Police Chief Gary Hicks to warn certain officers against "dating minors, porn on city-owned phones, consumption of alcoholic beverages while off-duty, snorting crushed pills [and] oral sex in public."

"It is never easy when you are dealing with those types of cases," Snyder said. "But the main thing is the cases were built on proof. We will continue to handle those types of situations according to state law and the policies of the city."

City Council members David May, George Poe, Richard Banks and Avery Johnson expressed support for Snyder, too.

"I would like to go on record as saying I have confidence in Chief Snyder," May said. "I have known him all his adult life. I think Cleveland is very fortunate to have a man of his intelligence and education representing the police department."

Banks said he believes the police department is doing its job.

"Almost every morning I read something about a shooting in Chattanooga or some act of violence," Banks said. "We don't have that here. We have an effective police department that combats that element that wants to cause harm to our citizens."

After the allegations came out in early 2008, charges were filed against two Cleveland police officers in January 2009, after details of the allegations were found to be true during an investigation into a separate case involving the officers.

Officer Nathan Thomas pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape, forgery and possessing drugs with intent to sell. He is serving six years in the Southeastern Regional Correctional Institute in Pikeville, Tenn.

Officer Dennis Hughes pleaded guilty to aggravated statutory rape and aggravated assault. He served nine months in jail and was placed on probation.

"It is never easy when you are dealing with those types of cases," said Snyder, who was at the City Council meeting. "But the main thing is the cases were built on proof. We will continue to handle those types of situations according to state law and the policies of the city."

  • photo
    Cleveland City Council member David May
    Photo by Lido Vizzutti

Rowland said the officers causing the problems eventually were charged and convicted.

"It seems like the outcome is what the public would expect -- convictions and serving time in jail," he said.

"All those people who violated the rules, made bad choices, are no longer with the police department," Johnson said.

On Sunday, the Times Free Press ran a story in which police records showed that Thomas was having a relationship with a teenage girl 10 years ago. Hughes was investigated twice in late 2007 for domestic altercations and harassing phone calls to a former girlfriend, records show.

While many Bradley County Commission districts include city residential areas, none of the county commissioners has made any public statements regarding Snyder.

During the commission meeting Monday, Commission Chairman Louie Alford and Commissioner Jeff Yarber had no comment when asked about the controversies involving the police chief.

Commissioner Bill Winters, however, said he believes Snyder is a "reputable man."

"I have faith in the City Council that they will handle the matter to the best of their ability," he said. "I wouldn't want to second guess their decisions any more than I would want them to second guess mine."

Poe said he is proud that people can stop and talk with him anytime, but "I have had zero people say anything about Chief Snyder."

Correspondent Paul Leach contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1041.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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boxingbuffalo said...

I am disappointed that the city council has chosen to ignore the facts presented by the TFP. At a minimum, an investigation is warranted. How can these men ignore allegations of this administration standing by silently while officers had sex with children? Councilman Poe said that no one has spoken to him about Chief Snyder? That is a true politician! If no one is urging me to do right, I don't need to.

I don't believe there is any doubt that the mother of a little girl made a complaint about this in May 2008. I don't believe that there is any doubt that Wes Snyder had Hicks talk to the officers involved. I don't believe there is any doubt that the law demands that the involved officers and this situation should have been handled differently. I don't believe there is any doubt that Wes Snyder lied in his press conference last month. Is Wes Snyder educated? I guess so. Is Wes Snyder reputable? no.

In Sunday's article, he was quoted as saying that he couldn't remember if he or a now dead Lt investigated his brother-in-law. Are you kidding me? He can't remember if he investigated his wife's brother?! LIAR! I am sickened that this cover-up is now spreading to the city council. This will affect how I vote in the next election.

I will not vote for a councilman who condones the rape of children.

December 13, 2011 at 8:01 a.m.
ckelly said...

The cover ups havent just now spread to council. They have always been there. When a citizen who was getting a lot of tickets threatened to come to council and reveal all that was going on with officer noble, they quietened him by changing the city law so he wouldnt get anymore parking tickets. its amazing what you can get done with that council when you know the right infomation.

December 13, 2011 at 11 a.m.
jimmiedee said...

Ive always said the city council would turn their heads they cant stand on their two feet. Mayor Rowland is in bed with Cheif Snyder and it will always be this way unless the TBI or FBI comes in and does a intence invegastion. Then i think will that help remove Snyder for his lies and coverup of this. Im also asking why or if the parents filed suite agains the officers invoved Snyder for his coverup and the city of Cleveland helping cover this up. Maybe we need Nancy Grace to get involved im sure she would find out the truth. Any way some how Cheif Snyder needs to be remove for his office. I understand that the Deptuy Cheif has been on vacation so they say im told he has been suspended from the force. I think this maybe true no comments for him i got this from a realy close sorce.

December 13, 2011 at 5:42 p.m.
jimmiedee said...

In responce to David May hes always been a jok even when he was fire chief couldnt build home so he tried something new city council right down hes alley As for Richard Banks he just sucks up the mony the city pays for his service big joke hes only in it for money couldnt make a living just being a publice attorney now hes sucking the city dry Mayor Rowland just wants his picture in the paper and collect a paycheck. The whole city council and Cheif Snyder are in this coverup together. I hope this gets nasty and some heads roll.

December 13, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.
patriot1 said...

In addition to the citizens of Cleveland the real victims here are the children who were raped and exploited by these thugs. I am surprised there has been no civil suit since this was obviously covered up and allowed to continue.

December 13, 2011 at 6:28 p.m.
lookinfour said...

I think everyone above said it very well. It is amazing that city council members would support a Chief obviously caught in his lies. They generalize and call him 'reputable' and they have 'confidence' in him. Are you kidding me? He had information of the rapes of teenage children and all he ordered was a meeting where basically 'don't do it again' was written on a white board. This is criminal. He said he didn't have enough information to investigate and this idiot is the Chief of Police? As stated, the coverup is with the city council as well. I guess they think, whats behind us is behind us. Chattanooga is the only city with problems.

December 13, 2011 at 7:07 p.m.
anotherblonde1 said...

Snyder may be educated but his grammar and spelling sure don't show it. This is not the first time Snyder's credibility has been called into question and it will come as no surprise that the city council supported him then as well. You've known Snyder "all your life?" No, you've known what Snyder wants you to know. Hicks is not on vacation. He was injured and has been on leave. Hicks is taking his long-planned retirement today.

December 15, 2011 at 11:42 a.m.
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