Oak Ridge leaders discuss results of police department review

OAK RIDGE (WATE) – City leaders and community members in Oak Ridge learned the results of a review regarding the Oak Ridge Police Department and its chief, Jim Akagi, on Thursday. The review was requested because of concerns about the police chief, how he managed his officers, and the turnover rate.

The review is about 20 pages in length and took several months to be completed by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service or MTAS. City council members voted in March to have the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, or MTAS, conduct the review.

Previous story: Oak Ridge city council approves investigation of police department

Five issues they came across after interviewing a number of current and former employees included pay, equipment and technology, inconsistencies in policies, the demeanor of the police chief and trust.

Web Extra: Read the full report [PDF]

City council members identified three problem areas including morale, turnover, and administrative policies. The report found “the turnover rate is higher than comparable agencies, but it has been for some time.”

It compared police departments from Morristown, Dyersburg, Bristol, Smyrna, Brentwood, and Sevierville to Oak Ridge.

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It’s increased since Chief Akagi has been in office.

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When asked if he thinks he’s the reason for the increasing turnover rate, Akagi said “no.”

Some of the review also focused on the chief’s behavior with some employees stating the “chief becomes angry easily, overreacts to situations, and is verbally abusive toward police department staff.”

Others took time to point out the positives.

“We’ve not heard the kinds of concerns from citizens about crime that were chronic in years before he came here,” said Ellen Smith, an Oak Ridge City Council Member.

Some people in the audience said the report didn’t go far enough. One man, Jack Mansfield, said the chief is the problem.

“I know how to foster a good work environment. I know what it requires. I know when it is good and I know when it’s bad. I know the difference and I can tell you right now it’s bad,” said Mansfield of Oak Ridge.

Both former and current employees told MTAS representatives pay was the most often stated reason for turnover and low morale. The chief said it isn’t something that can be easily fixed.

“I think the big thing that I want to do right away is improve communication and I’m going to ask officers is what do you want to see? How do you want to communicate? So I think there’s nothing peculiar. There’s nothing striking about this,” said Akagi.

The report had 22 recommendations.

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