The FBI is reviewing the Oct. 16 incident, which began around 1 a.m. when Deputy Brian Rehg stopped a silver 2006 Acura RSX on East Emory Road in North Knox County. Behind the wheel of the Acura was 19-year-old Terry Wayne Phillips II. Four passengers also were in the car.
The account of the incident is chilling. Rehg threatened to issue Phillips citations for speeding, reckless driving and drag racing. He also called for backup, and four other deputies — Brad Cox, Jeff Bryant, Jason Acuff and Alex Slate — arrived at the scene within minutes.
Phillips cooperated with the officers, consenting to a search of the Acura and responding respectfully. Officers cursed at him and produced a baseball bat, then made a proposition — the reckless driving and drag racing charges would be dropped if Phillips pulled off a stunt with the bat. With the bat perpendicular to the ground, the officers made Phillips put his forehead on the end and run in circles until he became dizzy. Then officers made him run around a cruiser without falling down.
After completing the humiliating task, Phillips was sent on his way with a speeding ticket. Four days later, Phillips, whose uncle is a Knoxville Police Department officer, called the KCSO Office of Professional Standards to file a complaint.Because Deputy Brad Cox is the son of Capt. Tom Cox, who runs the Office of Professional Standards, a Major Crimes investigator led the internal probe.
Jones demoted the deputies to work as corrections officers, cut their pay and suspended their police powers. In a letter to the officers, Jones wrote their conduct was “unprofessional, inexcusable, unauthorized and intolerable.”
The sheriff acted decisively, but the undocumented probe is cause for concern. Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Martha Dooley said the officers confessed, but she said there is no investigative file, an inexcusable lack of documentation that undermines public confidence in the investigation’s legitimacy. Jones should have insisted on written records to ensure transparency and satisfy any concerns that Cox, who has been disciplined before, did not receive preferential treatment.
They should be fired. And it hardly seems like a good idea to put these guys in corrections, where they’ll be overseeing inmates.