published Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Former Chattanooga police officers involved in Adam Tatum beating try to get jobs back

Former officers Sean Emmer, left, and Adam Cooley sit Wednesday in the City Council room at City Hall during a hearing to appeal their termination from the Chattanooga Police Department by Chief Bobby Dodd.
Former officers Sean Emmer, left, and Adam Cooley sit Wednesday in the City Council room at City Hall during a hearing to appeal their termination from the Chattanooga Police Department by Chief Bobby Dodd.
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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After hours of testimony and video evidence presented Wednesday, two former Chattanooga police officers will continue to make a case today to get their jobs back.

Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley sat side by side during the daylong hearing in the Chattanooga City Council chambers.

Chief Bobby Dodd fired them in November over their involvement in the beating of federal halfway house inmate Adam Tatum. The inmate, who was on cocaine and trying to kick down a door at the halfway house, was struck at least 44 times with a metal police baton, choked and hit with a stun gun. Both his legs were broken in the June 14, 2012, incident involving numerous officers.

"This is one of the most egregious [cases] I've ever seen," Dodd testified at the hearing.

Also testifying was retired Internal Affairs Capt. Susan Blaine

Blaine said Emmer was "a lot larger" than Tatum's 175 pounds. The officers should have been able to control him, she said.

Still, Blaine said she did not anticipate the officers losing their jobs even though she recommended findings to Dodd that the officers used excessive force.

"I don't think their intent was to violate the policy or injure Tatum," she said.

Dodd was on the stand for about five hours under sometimes-intense questioning by attorneys.

At one point Bryan Hoss, who is representing Emmer, asked if the batons and Tasers were ineffective.

Tatum seemed to have incredible strength and endurance during the attack, according to testimony.

Dodd said officers made no attempts to cuff Tatum early on.

  • Surveillance video shows savage beating by Chattanooga police
    Surveillance video from the Salvation Army on McCallie Avenue shows two Chattanooga police officers using excessive force on an inmate. Adam Tatum, 37, suffered six fractures to his right leg and two fractures to his left leg, including a compound fracture, when police took him into custody after a disorder.

Officers continued to escalate force against Tatum even though he was only passively resisting, not fighting back, he said.

"What Officer Emmer did, I see that in criminals. I don't know that I can train that out of someone," Dodd said.

Dodd said Cooley's actions were worse because punching someone in the head on a hard surface could be lethal.

Tatum, 37, was released from jail. He continues to have a throbbing pain where a rod was inserted in his broken leg after the beating, said a family member who attended part of the hearing.

Tatum has no medical insurance. He has no job. He is applying for disability based on his injuries. He's trying to get a Pell grant to attend college, said Robin Flores, an attorney who has filed a lawsuit on Tatum's behalf.

Despite those challenges, the relative said, "His attitude is good."

A Hamilton County grand jury declined to indict Emmer and Cooley on criminal charges. A six-month federal investigation also yielded no charges.

After the hearing ends today, administrative law judge Kim Summers has 15 days to give her initial order and up to 60 days for a final decision, depending on whether attorneys file findings.

Attorneys for either side who want to appeal her decision would do so through Hamilton County Chancery Court.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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