Fired PF officers 'extremely disappointed'

Former police say punishment, if any, should have been delivered privately
Jul. 03, 2013 @ 08:16 PM

(Editor's Note: The complete statement, issued Wednedsay evening, is available at right.)

In their first statement since Chief Jack Baldwin announced they were under investigation last month, the three police officers he dismissed Monday say the department didn’t give them an opportunity to explain their actions and should not have made the matter public by announcing their dismissals at a press conference Tuesday.

Michael Musgrove, Trinity Brown and Jefferson Thigpen were dismissed after a supervisor discovered a recorded conversation in which they talked about killing other officers in the department.

Baldwin, who had declined to speak about the investigation after announcing the suspensions last month, released full details of the matter at Tuesday’s press conference.

Wednesday evening, the officers released a joint statement through local attorney Steven Marshall. Marshall confirmed he is representing all three, at least for now, but declined to add much to the written statement.

He did say they “absolutely” felt that their dismissal was an excessive punishment for their actions.

Their joint statement focuses as much on the city’s decision to take the matter to the public as on that decision; it begins by saying, “We are extremely disappointed that the City of Pigeon Forge chose to call a press conference and release personnel records without giving us the opportunity to attend the press conference or view records from our personnel file prior to their release.

“Why the city acted this way toward us is beyond our comprehension; but we feel the city wanted to make examples of us for its own reasons – perhaps to  deter other city employees from questioning any city action.”

In an interview Wednesday evening, Marshall confirmed the three had complained in the past about city actions or policies but declined to go into specifics.

He said the three of them were called into Baldwin’s office at the start of the investigation, but weren’t given a chance to explain the conversation or its context. Baldwin said they denied having the conversation at that time; Marshall declined to answer whether that took place.

In the statement, the three don’t deny that they are the persons who can be heard in the recording, but say the conversation was never meant to be serious.

“We are young men who work very hard in a very stressful profession.  Sometimes we blow off steam in ways that are hard to understand if you’re not in our circumstances.  That is what happened here, nothing more. 

“We acknowledge it was inappropriate in the strictest sense, but the recordings are not an accurate reflection of who we are.”

Baldwin declined to comment for this story.