- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Records show the Knoxville police and fire departments hired multiple employees over the past decade despite red flags in their applications.

Some of the warning signs included drug use and poor driving records, the Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1KDJD0O) reports.

Some prospective employees appealed the “non-endorsements” of their applications to a three-member panel and were ultimately hired. Records show some of these employees went on to have distinguished careers. Others did not.

Officer Marcus Stalsworth was eventually fired after authorities said he totaled his police cruiser with alcohol in his system from the night before. He had been drinking less than four hours before the start of his shift and reached speeds of 111 mph while on his way to roll call that morning, the newspaper said.

Stalsworth had been booked on a reckless driving charge before joining the police department, the newspaper said, and had appealed the “non-endorsement” of his application.

The department hired Stalsworth and 11 other officers between 2004 and 2015 even though their applications were flagged for issues including drug use, failure to disclose drug use, juvenile convictions, personal financial troubles and poor driving records.

Mayor Madeline Rogero defended the appeals process. “Overall, the appeals process is not a failure,” she said. Rogero also said the appeals process is just as good as or better than the city’s regular hiring process.

Police Chief David Rausch agreed with Rogero. “I think the key here is a background doesn’t tell you future performance,” he said. “The majority of these officers who appealed and were passed by the panel are doing great work as law enforcement in our community. So, actually you’ll see it’s more successful than it’s a failure.”

Fire Chief Stan Sharp also agreed, pointing to the performance of two firefighters who had appealed their background findings.

“We could have potentially lost two really good firefighters,” he said. “Two people who have proven to be good firefighters and good employees.”

The appeals process was implemented in 1982 after a report by U.S. Department of Justice found the police department was not doing enough to hire minorities and women.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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