The detectives found evidence in each case that could have been sufficient to support an arrest. Many notes were on the cases showing where they had been cleared by officers simply because the victims couldn't be reached by phone or no response was received by the victim when a letter was sent to their home.
Two victims who talked with The Tennessean stated that they wished to press charges. Each one had gone to the department only to be told by detectives when they arrived that the cases had been closed. When questioned, the detectives said it was because the victim refused to cooperate.
In 2005, the number of cleared cases without an arrest stood at 211. By the end of the next year, those cleared cases rose to 3,866 and in 2009, again on the rise, rested at 5,600. Interim Chief Steve Anderson said he could not explain with any certainty why the numbers would shift so dramatically after 2005.
"I don't know that we've got a good explanation,'' Anderson said. "It's hard for me to imagine (nearly) 6,000 where there wasn't an arrest and somebody made a determination that it should be cleared by exception and it was accurate."
Yet, he went on to add his opinion, stating that a new police form that came online that year (2005) to simplify the classification of such cases was to blame.
When questioning leadership inside the department, no one seemed to know where the basis for this new form had started. Former Police Chief Renal Serpas, who was part of the department from 2004 to 2010, was reached; he stated that it was a "collective decision" and went on to include, "As to clearances, the (police department) did incorrectly clear cases of many different types for many years before my appointment, and into the year 2005 … when we learned of this error, we immediately created corrective action.''
Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a widely consulted expert on police accountability and crime statistics, gave his opinion stating, "The change in exceptional clearance in 2006 defies all logic, and raises suspicion that the data are being manipulated."
This statement left many police administrators up in arms and denying any such claims, even when one of their own saw several discrepancies in how officers and detectives were classifying cases. Retired Lieutenant Gary Whitehouse worked in the domestic violence unit from 2004-2009 and witnessed these mis-classifications. Whitehouse sent multiple e-mails to high-ranking officials within the police department in 2007 and 2008 to warn them, but was looked over as "unfounded" cases continued to be forwarded to the domestic violence unit.
Whitehouse contributes all of the faults with pressure on officers to quickly deal with incidents so that they can get back out on the streets to make traffic stops. As a result, investigations suffered.
The department claimed Whitehouse's assertion was preposterous and dismissed the statement altogether.
Residents in Bradley County should be able to rest a little easier than those in Nashville, according to gathered statistics. The People News obtained statistics for the Bradley County Sheriff's Department regarding crimes committed dating back to the year 2001. While there are no specifics for cleared cases on domestic violence victims, details are shown for crimes against persons, which include domestic violence offenses, such as: Murder, Assault, Rape, Kidnapping, etc. The BCSO has cleared cases without an arrest, however, not at the same rate as Nashville Metro. Cases can be cleared upon arrest, victim's refusal to cooperate, lack of evidence, etc.
In 2001, the Crimes Against Persons stood at a reported 553 cases. Pertaining to these cases, 379 arrests were made and 479 cases were cleared. A difference of 100 in cleared and arrests, meaning possible lack of evidence, victim refusal to cooperate, or another of many reasons for the clearance of those cases.
In 2005, reports of Crimes Against Persons rose to 1,198. Of those, 793 were cleared and 456 arrests were made.
In 2008, reports of Crimes Against Persons was 1,182. That year, 926 cases were cleared and 585 arrests were made.
While the numbers have changed slightly over the years, there remains more consistency in the BCSO numbers when compared to those of Nashville Metro. As the number of crimes reported rose, as did the number of cleared cases and arrests. Nowhere in the BCSO statistics do the numbers jump by 3,000 over the course of a 12 month period.
If you wish to see these statistics and more regarding crime in Bradley County, simply visit the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation website at www.tbi.tn.gov. On the left side, click on 'Tennessee Crime Statistics;' from there, go to 'Statistical Analysis Center.' A list of years will be the focus on the page, click the desired year and search for any Tennessee police department you wish.