published Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Cleveland Police Department modernized, scandalized during Wes Snyder's 10-year stint

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland police Chief Wes Snyder officially retires from his position Sunday, his 10th anniversary as chief, after serving the department for 33 years.

Under his leadership, the Cleveland Police Department moved into a new $6 million police services building and modernized its training and equipment.

The department also received certification through the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement in 2012 and Tennessee Law Enforcement accreditation in 2013.

But it has had recurring problems and scandals during Snyder's tenure.

The Times Free Press reported years of disciplinary issues among the police ranks, which were documented in the police department's own records, in a series of articles in 2011 and early 2012.

According to those records, officers -- including Snyder's brother-in-law -- were repeatedly disciplined for sexual misconduct, sometimes with suspects, but were not terminated.

Snyder has been on leave from the department, which his father served as chief before him, since he submitted an unexpected retirement letter on Dec. 6.

In the letter, he urged fellow officers and police department employees to "continue to maintain the high standard of professionalism you have provided the citizens of Cleveland during my time as chief of police."

Snyder's resignation occurred two days after security video surfaced showing him meeting with MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr in a rental unit at Rhodes Climate Controlled Storage on Old Tasso Road on multiple occasions in late November and early December. Snyder appeared to be dressed in uniform on some of those occasions.

A police investigation into possible illegal activity, requested by the facility owner, revealed the unit was outfitted with pillows, blankets, a folding chair and a plastic three-drawer cabinet containing paper towels, baby wipes, a hair brush and a bottle of brandy.

"I take full responsibility and complete responsibility for my actions," said Snyder in an apologetic statement given before the Cleveland City Council on Dec. 9. "Without a doubt I have used poor judgment in this matter."

Snyder's apology received loud applause from city leaders as he shook their hands and departed.

The city has not initiated an investigation into official misconduct, Jeff Davis, personnel director of Cleveland's human resources department, said in a recent email.

"The initial complaint by the warehouse owner was investigated by department personnel according to policy," Davis said.

As a salaried department head, Snyder is subject to being on duty 24 hours a day, Davis said. However, department heads have a flexible work schedule and the discretion to take lunches or other short-term absences, he said.

Davis said City Manager Janice Casteel's next step will be to interview after this week for the senior captain position.

Capt. David Bishop is serving as the interim police chief.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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