UPDATE: Tupelo Police investigation of officer's actions complete

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed announced at a press conference Wednesday at City Hall that the investigation into a traffic accident involving a police officer’s son is now complete.

The mayor said he was pleased with the investigation and its findings.

“We think things were handled well and investigated thoroughly,” said Reed. “We want everyone in the city to be treated the same and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”

Carleton said that although the officer in question did not do anything illegal in the case, there were some “errors in judgment” on his behalf that the chief would not expound on.

“Some decisions made were questionable and some things could have been handled better,” said Carleton. “Nothing criminal was done.”

The officer was disciplined, according to Carleton, but what those disciplinary actions were was not released.

In the Nov. 27 incident, a police officer allegedly removed his son from the scene after he ran into a building on Robert E. Lee Drive.

The name of the officer or officers involved was not released.

Press release from today’s Press Conference:

Questions have been raised concerning the propriety of the way in which an incident involving the son of a high-ranking Tupelo Police Department officer was handled. This is to provide a summary of what occurred regarding the incident in question as well as the steps taken by the Tupelo Police Department and City Administration in regards to that incident.

Shortly before noon on November 27, 2010, Lee County E-911 received a report of a single-vehicle accident in which the driver stated that he had hit a building off Robert E. Lee Drive and thought that he had sustained a concussion. Appropriate emergency personnel were dispatched by E-911, including elements of the Tupelo Police Department, Tupelo Fire Department and North Mississippi Medical Center.

TPD patrol officers arrived at the scene within ten minutes. While the officers noted that the driver appeared slightly disoriented, they also noted that the airbags had been deployed and that the vehicle had sustained fairly substantial damage. There was no apparent smell of alcohol and an inventory of the driver’s vehicle did not disclose any illegal substances or discarded alcohol containers. When the officers discovered that the driver was the son of a high-ranking TPD officer, they notified their shift sergeant who in turn notified the shift captain.

The shift captain assumed responsibility for the investigation and interviewed the driver in his vehicle. Based on standard practice of giving the driver the benefit of the doubt under the circumstances of there being no third party victim and the only charge that might be brought being a misdemeanor DUI offense, and considering that there was no supporting evidence of the operator being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the shift captain called the driver’s father to pick him up. From all accounts, the driver’s father did not intervene in the investigation and pursuant to the shift captain’s call, only drove to the scene and picked up his son.

Upon being advised of this occurrence on the following Monday, November 29, Chief Carleton directed that a full investigation be undertaken by the TPD Internal Affairs Office.

Upon completion of that investigation, and following consultation with the Mayor and City Attorney, Chief Carleton turned over the entirety of the investigation to the Mississippi Highway Patrol and requested that agency to conduct a full, independent investigation of the event.

On or about December 15, 2010, Chief Carleton was notified by the Mississippi Highway Patrol that they had completed their investigation and found no criminal activity to have been undertaken by any TPD officer. Chief Carleton then followed up with the Attorney General’s Office to determine whether any further action might be warranted and was advised by the Attorney General’s office that since the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the District Attorney’s office had determined that no criminal charges were warranted, the Attorney General’s Office declined to consider the matter further, and that with as now an internal matter for the Tupelo Police Department to consider.

Based on the findings of the TPD internal affairs investigation and the conclusions of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the District Attorney’s office and the Attorney General’s Office, Chief Carleton has concluded that the actions of the officers involved were consistent with reasonable police practices but considering that the son of a high-ranking TPD officer was involved, errors in judgement may have occurred. The Tupelo Police Department has therefore instituted what it believes to be appropriate internal disciplinary actions.

More as it is available.

Read more in Thursday’s newspaper.

Click here for more on this from a previous Daily Journal story.