Norris Police Chief replaced over allegations of false training documentation

Michael Poole named interim Chief for department

Michael Poole
There’s a new interim chief of police in Norris, Michael Poole, who last week replaced Samuel W. Ogburn, who resigned over allegations of submitting fraudulent documents to the Tennessee agency that supervises certification of police officers.

City Manager Scott Hackler said Ogburn, who had just become police chief May 13, was suspended in late August and subsequently resigned from the position on Sept. 6 when faced with dismissal over the allegations.

According to an investigation report written by Hackler and obtained by The Courier News through a Freedom of Information Act request, Ogburn, 42, was found to have submitted a fraudulent document to the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy outlining in-service firearms training by three Norris police officers.

The document, which Hackler’s report said included “fraudulent information and forged signatures for the Training Officer and Firearms Instructor,” was referred to the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) by the training academy for a “disciplinary action decision.”

POST’s board held an informal hearing on the issue Aug. 15, but Hackler said he was not notified of the hearing until Aug. 16, after which he began an internal investigation into Ogburn’s actions under the Norris Fraud Policy covering city employees.

In his “Executive Summary” of the internal investigation, Hackler recommended Ogburn’s termination as chief of police and of his employment with the city.

The report noted that Ogburn’s “violations” included “knowingly falsifying an official record for police officer re-certification by entering false information” and “forging an approval signature.”

“This is in violation of the City of Norris Personnel Policy Section VIII, I,” Hackler’s report said.

It added that Ogburn “failed to adequately and timely keep the City Manager apprised of issues associated with the documentation and subsequent POST proceedings until the end of the process.”

“Chief Ogburn’s actions also violated other job requirements and prerequisites, included but not limited to his ability to maintain a high level of discipline and morale for his department,” the executive summary said, concluding: “Dismissal is the recommended consequence for falsification of records.”

The records that were falsified supposedly detailed required firearms re-certification for three of Norris’ six police officers that was conducted at the Rocky Top Police Department.

As it turned out, the Rocky Top firearms instructor’s own training certification was not valid at the time the Norris officers participated in the training, and Ogburn’s decision to file the fraudulent documents with the state were a result of his concern that the three officers might lose their state police officer certification, Hackler said.

“Chief Ogburn said he admitted the forgery in the [POST] hearing explaining that he was new to the administrative position and panicked regarding the three officers losing their certification and the department not having any officers,” Hackler’s report noted.

The state has given all three of the affected officers waivers that allow them to keep their certification despite the mix-up over their firearms re-training, Hackler said.

Ogburn, who could not be reached to comment on his departure, had been a member of the Norris department since 2015, but was not in an administrative position that required dealing with the officers’ recertification until taking over the chief’s job.

Poole, meanwhile, will continue as interim police chief until Hackler names a permanent replacement for Ogburn, the city manager said. Before being named interim chief, Poole, 45, was a sergeant with the Norris department.

The position will not be advertised initially, as Hackler said he intends to “allow internal candidates first chance” at the chief’s job.

The department when fully staffed includes a chief, an investigator and four more officers. The only vacancy now is the one left by Ogburn’s departure, as a previously open patrol officer’s position was filled last week.

The salary range for the chief’s position is $36,000 to $44,000 annually, depending on experience, City Recorder Janet Parks said.

Rocky Top Police Chief James Shepperly said that his department has sorted out the issue over certification of the department’s firearms training instructor, and that his officers also have been granted waivers by the state.

“We’re in compliance,” Shepperly said.

He characterized the problem over the firearms instructor’s certification as a “clerical issue,” and noted that the same instructor had been training Rocky Top officers for the past 15 years.

But his department had not submitted any fraudulent documentation to the state over its officers’ recent firearms training, said Shepperly, who has been Rocky Top’s police chief for the past 27 years.