Audit: Harriman police officers had no way to report abusive chief

Audit: Harriman police officers had no way to report abusive chief

Harriman’s former police chief allegedly abused his position and his employees in different sorts of ways, and no one had any formal way to report it, according to an audit released Wednesday.

In that audit Tennessee Comptrollers called out Harriman officials for not giving their employees a way to report any alleged acts of waste, fraud and abuse.

The audit did not identify the former police chief by name, but Harriman City Manager Kevin Helms told Tennessee Watchdog the report referred to former police chief Randy Heidle. Heidle resigned his position in June after city officials received anonymous complaints about him from within the department, according to news station WATE.

Kevin Helms (photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

Kevin Helms (photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

“We talked to 10 employees and determined there was enough concern to investigate the matter,” Helms said.

“We felt it was a conflict of interest for us to look into it so we notified the Comptroller’s office and they in turn communicated with the local district attorney regarding the matter.”

In their audit, Comptrollers said Heidle, among other things, used police officers and police equipment for his personal business, even for what the report called Heidle’s “outside employment.”

“Interviews with police department personnel revealed an environment in which department management tolerated and even ordered abuse related to using department employees and property for personal purposes. Police officers described instances in which they were asked to perform personal errands for the former police chief while on city time,” according to the audit.

“In addition, they told investigators that they sometimes chose either to take vacation time or to adjust their work schedule in order to avoid performing personal services for the former police chief while on city time. Officers stated that they did not feel they could refuse the former police chief’s requests, due to fear of reprisal.”

The report said “the potential cost of these abuses was minimal,” but added “the management environment that allowed this persistent activity to continue over several years clearly damaged department morale.”

Russell Johnson (photo courtesy of the Roane County District Attorney's Office)

Russell Johnson (photo courtesy of the Roane County District Attorney’s Office)

Harriman Police Department officials did not return a request for comment Tuesday. Heidle’s phone number, meanwhile, was unlisted, and he did not appear to have any social media accounts.

In June Knoxville TV station WVLT reported Heidle kept money he raised at a fundraiser for himself and took parts off police cars for his own personal use.

“Another allegation claimed Heidle decided to have an airsoft gun training class for the HPD Explorer program, but this actually ended up being a birthday party for his son,” the station reported.

Heidle retired later that month, WATE reported.

Roane County District Attorney Russell Johnson did not immediately return a request for comment.

Heidle served as police chief for at least 10 years, Helms said.

The police department has 19 officers, he added.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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