Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) Deputy Chief Chris Taylor, who is currently running for political office, is under two separate internal investigations by the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), the MNPD Public Affairs confirmed Thursday to The Tennessee Star.
The OPA is investigating a complaint received this year concerning Taylor wearing his uniform while off-duty in Sumner County as well as interaction with staff at the MNPD Training Academy, Public Affairs Director Don Aaron told The Star in an email.
Taylor submitted notice of his 30-year retirement to the MNPD on March 21, 2022, with an effective date of May 31, 2022, according to Aaron.
Taylor is presently using accrued vacation time until his effective retirement date, and has not been at MNPD headquarters since March 21, Aaron further detailed.
In terms of the investigations, the OPA has that responsibility within MNPD for certain complaints of misconduct against sworn officers and civilian employees, examining all types of complaints, including but not limited to discourtesy, excessive force, dishonesty and harassment, intimidation, discrimination, domestic violence and other types of criminal conduct.
As The Star reported, Taylor is running for the full-time political office of County Mayor in his home of Sumner County and appeared to be in violation of MNPD policy stated in the Department manual by wearing his uniform off-duty.
Taylor is a candidate in the Sumner County May 3 primary, where he is running as a Republican – the party known to support and “defend” versus “defund” the police.
Taylor, who has been a member of the Sumner County Board of Commissioners since 2014, announced his intent to run for County Mayor via an August 4, 2021, post to his Facebook page named “Chris Taylor For Mayor.” That same month, Taylor began wearing his MNPD uniform and sidearm to meetings of the County Commission committees.
On the Sumner County IT Department YouTube channel, which contains videos from committee meetings, Taylor can be observed during 2021 in no less than 10 meetings in his MNPD uniform, including the August 9 Budget Committee, September 13 Budget and Legislative committees, September 22 Redistricting Committee, October 12 Legislative and Budget committees, October 20 Redistricting Committee, November 8 Legislative and Budget committees, and the December 6 Budget Committee.
Taylor also made posts to his political campaign Facebook page “Chris Taylor For Mayor” which showed him in uniform, some of which have since been deleted.
The off-duty uniform issue was uncovered after an anonymous source provided information to The Star about 10 days ago on the OPA complaint filed against Taylor for his misconduct with fellow MNPD officers.
The source revealing the OPA complaint against Taylor is remaining anonymous while the OPA investigation is underway.
Information from Aaron confirming the two investigations came as a response to several questions The Star posed to MNPD Chief John Drake regarding three issues relating to Taylor, including the wearing of his MNPD uniform while off-duty, whether running as a candidate in a partisan race is a violation of the federal Hatch Act as indicated in guidance issued by the National Fraternal Order of Police, and several questions surrounding the conduct-related OPA complaint and investigation.
In the inquiry to Chief Drake, The Star included screen captures from the videos of the 10 meetings during which Taylor was wearing his uniform as well as three screen captures from his “Chris Taylor For Mayor” Facebook page also from 2021 when he was wearing his MNPD uniform at a school event for his daughter, at a radio station in Portland, and in the Hendersonville Christmas parade.
While MNPD had already received a complaint this year concerning Taylor’s wearing of his uniform while off-duty in Sumner County, “The photographs you have provided will supplement and further inform the continuing investigation by our police department’s Office of Professional Accountability,” Aaron told The Star.
Aaron went on to cite three applicable paragraphs from the MNPD policy regarding the questions of off-duty wearing of the uniform:
B. Employees shall only wear the departmental uniform while on-duty, en route to or from duty, departmentally approved events, or when authorized by established policy. (Category D)
C. Employees shall not wear uniforms while in an off-duty status except when authorized by established policy. (Category D)
D. No employee, while in uniform, shall wear on the uniform or display any item (e.g. pins, patches, etc.) not specifically issued by the department or authorized by written order of the Chief of Police. (Category D)
The “Category D” reference is to the Offense Category within the Disciplinary/Corrective Action Grid Chart also contained in the manual. The Offense Category range is from the highest of AA and the lowest of F. The grid lays out the retention period for the offense and the disciplinary action for first, second and third offenses.
A Category D offense retention period is 36 months and a first offense is subject to a 1-to-4-day suspension and goes up to a 5-to-10-day suspension for a third offense.
“Policy does not authorize the wearing of the uniform in the scenarios you have provided,” stated Aaron with regard to the photo evidence The Star included in the inquiry to Chief Drake.
“An employee found to have violated MNPD or Civil Service Commission rules,” Aaron further advised, “is subject to disciplinary action.”
Once the story regarding the violation of Taylor wearing his uniform while off-duty was published, several contacts were made to The Star regarding the more serious issue of the OPA complaint for the misconduct with officers at the MNPD training academy, including two retired MNPD police officers who were familiar with the incident.
From an initial phone inquiry to OPA on April 8, investigator Sergeant Gibson, who is not working on the Taylor case but was familiar with its status, told The Star that investigations are to be completed within 45 days, which is also stated in Section 4.10.040 covering investigative timelines within the Department manual.
The original complaint was filed much longer ago than that, according to the source. Findings during the investigation may have expanded the scope of the investigation and, therefore, extended the completion timeframe.
After the 45-day completion timeline, the complaint and investigation will become public record, Gibson told The Star.
The importance of reporting conduct which detracts from the respect and confidence necessary for the effectiveness of a law enforcement agency is demonstrated in the department policy of reporting prohibited behavior.
Department policy requires that any employee simply observing or becoming aware of any misconduct by another employee must immediately report the incident to their supervisor. Failure to do so is in itself considered misconduct and subject to administrative investigation, sanctions and charges up to and including the category of the underlying offense that was not reported.
The Star’s source on the OPA complaint has taken on a spokesperson like role, because involved officers are not allowed to publicly speak negatively about Metro leadership, the source explained.
In addition to background information that would not jeopardize the investigation, the source provided The Star a lengthy public statement that tells of Taylor using “verbal abuse, threats, slander, and physical aggression to attempt to bully personnel into performing his destructive commands.”
Taylor “became physically aggressive towards officers,” and “created an excessively hostile work environment,” the source alleges.
Taylor’s actions, the source charges, “caused both officers and the citizens of Nashville to be placed in unnecessary danger due to his leadership decisions.”
This isn’t the first time that Taylor has had a serious grievance lodged against him by a fellow officer.
In 2014, Taylor was named in a federal lawsuit by a Parks Police employee with 31 years’ experience who, as a Hispanic woman involved in a same-sex relationship, claimed discrimination based on her race, gender and sexual orientation. Metro Park Police Sergeant Pamela DeSoto alleged that since she was hired, she was “forced to endure repeated acts of discrimination and a hostile work environment,” according to court documents.
After receiving an outstanding performance review in December 2012 – scoring 3.7 with a score of 3 earning an “exceptional” rating on the department performance scale – DeSoto communicated in early 2013 her interest in a promotion to a lieutenant’s position that had become available at the Parks Police.
In May 2013, which was approximately two months before applications for the position were scheduled to be accepted in July 2013, DeSoto was “decommissioned” without warning and without documented charges against her by her supervisor, then Captain Chris Taylor.
The decommissioning resulted in DeSoto, a sworn officer, not only being disqualified from the lieutenant position, but forced the surrender of her badge, firearm and credentials, meaning identification or access cards that would portray DeSoto as a police officer.
DeSoto believed that a colleague was being “groomed” for the lieutenant’s position that she planned to seek.
Other disturbing details about Taylor’s treatment of DeSoto during and subsequent to the interview and decommissioning process were partially captured in a document by her attorney, Ben M. Rose.
DeSoto’s lawsuit sought $6 million from Metro government for compensatory and punitive damages.
After investigation, Nashville settled the case through a resolution passed by the Metro Council agreeing to pay DeSoto a settlement of $295,000 as “fair and reasonable and in the best interest of the Metropolitan Government.”
DeSoto was also recommissioned to work for Metro, but not to the Parks Police.
Several news reports from December 2020, indicate that the position Chief John Drake appointed Taylor to was Deputy Chief with him serving in a newly created position as Drake’s Chief of Staff. Taylor’s appointment by Drake was a promotion from the rank of Captain to Deputy Chief.
Somewhere between March 29, 2022, and April 11, 2022, Deputy Chief Chris Taylor’s title changed from Deputy Chief of Staff to Deputy Chief on the Chief’s Command Staff page. In other words, over the course of a less than a two-week period, the Chief of Staff designation was deleted.
Additionally, the job duties related to Chief Drake have changed on Taylor’s departmental webpage. A sentence describing Taylor’s role with the Chief, “Deputy Chief/Chief of Staff Chris Taylor is a liaison between Metro Nashville Police Department Bureaus and Chief of Police John Drake,” was also deleted during the same time period.
Chief Drake was contacted by The Star via email on Monday, April 11, asking for Drake to comment on three issues relating to Taylor.
Specific questions to Chief Drake regarding what seemed to be the most serious issue of the officer-submitted complaint to OPA were whether Taylor had been demoted, as supported by the changes to the MNPD webpages. If Taylor had been demoted, what was the reason and when did the demotion become effective, the Chief was asked.
Several sources had told The Star over the past couple of weeks that Taylor has been working from home. With Taylor’s annual salary of $188,471.39 being in the top 20 within Metro Nashville according to a government employee database, Drake was asked if Taylor is on leave and whether that leave is paid or unpaid if it is related to his performance.
On Tuesday, April 12, a public affairs officer for the Chief of Police advised The Star via email that the questions will be reviewed by the office and they will “respond sometime this week depending on breaking events.”
After normal business hours, Aaron responded via email to The Star at 5:16 p.m. on Thursday.
In addition to addressing Taylor wearing his uniform off-duty in violation of MNPD policy and the conduct-related employee complaint submitted to OPA, Aaron said, “We do not believe there is a violation of the Hatch Act merely by an MNPD employee seeking a part-time election position in their county of residence that is OUTSIDE of Davidson County,” citing Tennessee Code Annotated as well as an opinion from Tennessee’s Attorney General.
Apparently in response to the question regarding the changes to website about Taylor’s title and position, Aaron offered background on his appointment in addition to his current status.
“Chris Taylor was appointed Deputy Chief of Police with the assignment of Chief of Staff on December 16, 2020. MNPD positions above the rank of captain are appointed positions. The Chief of Staff assignment was changed on March 7, 2022, to Deputy Chief (working in the area of crime control strategies),” advised Aaron.
As for The Star’s source and their reason for coming forward at this time, in their public statement they offered the following alluding to Taylor’s pursuit of the office of Sumner County Mayor.
“Overall, Chris Taylor is not a man who should be anywhere near leadership at this time. While all people have the ability to change, grow, and become better, Taylor has not reached out to make amends to the officers he slandered and abused and has not attempted to repair the damage created by his own hands. MNPD personnel have expressed great relief upon hearing he will not be returning to the department; however, they do not want him to lead a path of destruction elsewhere and feel it is best to alert Sumner County residents to Taylor’s pattern of poor behavior before the mayoral election takes place. Sumner County is a great place to live, work, and visit, and it deserves much better than a two-faced, self-serving politician leading it.”
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News.
Photo “Chris Taylor” by Chris Taylor. Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by euthman. CC BY-SA 2.0.