Oak Ridge Police Chief A Menace, Officers Say

Oak Ridge police chief

Former Oak Ridge police detective John Criswell suspected his former police chief, James Akagi, was about to retaliate against him.

He didn’t know just how bad things were about to get.

Akagi, according to several news reports dating back to 2015, was a vindictive person. He reportedly was even known to throw random objects at work when he had a short fuse.

Oak Ridge City Council members had already hired consultants to review whether morale among police officers was low under his leadership.

But in Criswell’s case, he said he didn’t know Akagi would cross a line he said decent men don’t cross.

In interviews with The Tennessee Star, Oak Ridge City Council member Chuck Hope and former City Council member Trina Baughn said they personally vouch for Criswell’s integrity.

When asked, Criswell said there’s no nice way to describe Akagi.

“Honestly, with his up and down behavior, he exhibited some signs of being a sociopath. No one knew what to expect. Even my supervisors would lay low,” Criswell said.

“But when Akagi started messing with my family that’s when he crossed a serious line with me. That’s not something that you do.”

Attempts to reach Akagi at his personal cell phone number were unsuccessful. Members of the Oak Ridge Police Department directed all questions to an unspecified person at another phone number.

On Wednesday no one answered that phone.

Go back to the year 2015.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported that year, an Oak Ridge police officer, Christopher Bayless, pulled over a blue Ford Explorer for traveling 88 mph, more than 30 miles over the posted speed limit. He learned the driver was Akagi, his own police chief.

According to a formal complaint Bayless later had to file, Akagi tried to retaliate by having him brought up on aggravated assault charges while making an arrest — in an unrelated case.

Using video footage, members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation later cleared Bayless in that unrelated case of intentionally hitting a suspect with his patrol car.

Akagi, though, continued to make life difficult for Bayless, according to Tennessee Watchdog.

So Bayless resigned.

Former Oak Ridge Police Chief David Beam told Tennessee Watchdog he witnessed Akagi have an ugly outburst at a Tennessee Association of Police Chiefs convention in Memphis.

Soon, other officers came forward anonymously and complained to Baughn. Baughn took the matter up at the city council. She pointed out an unusually high turnover rate among officers since Akagi took over.

Members of the city council hired a third party to investigate why the force had so much turnover. Many officers were interviewed.

Eventually, those consultants said the turnover had more to do with salaries and less to do with how Akagi treated them.

“During that whole review time, there were several of us, including me and my family, that would go to the city council meetings as a sign of support and show we aren’t letting this go away because it seemed like it was going to get swept under the carpet.”

“During that time, my wife and my kids were very protective of me and my co-workers. They were all over social media. Trying to explain things to people defending Akagi at that time. People who never worked for him.”

“If I personally made any comments it was to correct someone. Just telling people to have an open mind.”

Akagi apparently had a problem with it, nevertheless.

At first, Criswell said Akagi banished him to an office to work by himself.

Later, he said the chief would ignore him at staff meetings.

That’s when Criswell asked for a private meeting and tried to extend an olive branch.

“When I tried to patch things up with him, he pulled out a file an inch thick. He slammed it down on a table and basically started berating me,” Criswell said.

The chief, Criswell learned, printed out and collected every single Facebook post or social media post made by him and his wife and kids, he said.

“Later I learned Chief Akagi every day would come into the office and ask his crime analysts to check social media for any new posts by me, my wife, and my kids.”

Criswell resigned earlier this year due to what he described as “a hostile work environment.”

This summer city officials received several anonymous letters from more police officers complaining about Akagi’s leadership.

Last week, Akagi announced he is resigning, according to the Knox News Sentinel.

But Criswell said Akagi went low.

Really low.

“It was creepy, and it was wrong. I felt like my life was being invaded.”

– – –

Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]







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One Thought to “Oak Ridge Police Chief A Menace, Officers Say”

  1. Tracy L Stout-Powers

    I’m not sure why the John Criswell is still talking about this. The Chief resigned.

    However, Mr. Criswell conveniently and consistently fails to mention Chief Akagi gave him a promotion after the witch hunt was over and MTAS found no fault with the Chief in the matters brought before them. Is that when you were “banished” to an office? The mass exodus Trina Baughn claimed was not true.

    There are many issues Mr. Criswell, fails to mention when obsessively speaking against the Chief.  When someone wants to sway the public in their favor they do tend to forget the facts. 

    As witnessed by this article, anyone can claim to be an “investigative journalist.”  Chris Butler isn’t interested in investigating the back story or why the Chief had the town behind him.   Had he actually investigated anything to do with the Chief, this article would read much differently. He wouldn’t spread libelous information or the retaliatory opinion of a former OR police officer turned psychiatrist? A “sociopath,” Mr. Criswell? But, that’s for a judge to rule on. Chief Akagi would be well within his rights to sue a lot of people in this town and out.

    For Trina Baughn to say she personally can vouch for someone’s integrity is sickeningly ironic. That implies her words carry weight which quickly proves this reporter has failed miserably in his report. He should know Baughn is the main culprit that blatantly and knowingly lied about a certain court document in regards to Chief Akagi. She and her minions are what started this libelous journey.

    Criswell said the Chief “messing” with his family was “low.” “It was creepy, and it was wrong. I felt like my life was being invaded.”  But Trina Baugn, John,  Anthony Allen, the wives, etc. spreading lies “all over social media” about the Chief regarding his ex-wife and more recently causing problems on social media with his wife and her business. THAT’S OK??  Btw, there were enough people supporting the Chief who sent him the screenshots of what people were saying.

    Criswell said his wife supported him and tried to explain what the Chief was like all over social media to those people that defended the Chief. He likes to remind us that we couldn’t possibly understand because we didn’t work for him. Criswell’s wife and kids didn’t work for the Chief either.  But they certainly didn’t mind when people that never worked for him spoke out against him. So why have an issue when we support him?

    Unfortunately, in the beginning, I was one of those that believed Trina Baughn, the Criswell’s and a couple of other rumor mongers. I was even applauded at the city council meeting when I spoke out against the Chief.

    THEN I took the time to actually read the court document Baughn had based her entire campaign on-to get rid of the Chief.  That’s when I found that what Baughn, a few policemen, Anthony Allen and the wives were alleging was FAR from the truth. You would have thought I personally slapped their grandmothers the way these people turned on me. It was vile.

    No, it’s not Criswell, et al that needed to worry about retaliation. Chief Akagi is the only victim of retaliation in THIS town.  In 58 years of living in Oak Ridger, this is the first time I can say I am ashamed of the way our city leaders have handled this entire matter. 

    For Mark Watson, the city manager, to not even have the decency to read the 30 page report Chief Akagi wrote up in response to charges in an ANONYMOUS letter is despicable. It’s time for Mr. Watson to accept one of those job offers he claims to receive every week.  Oak Ridge deserves better.

    To the city council that didn’t follow up and ensure Mr. Watson was following the recommendations of MTAS, at a cost to the taxpayers of $25,000, shows we are not being represented by those we elected.  Time to clean house ASAP.