KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A police department’s civilian review board has publicly disagreed with the handling of a confrontation between a white off-duty officer and a black woman he held at gunpoint.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports a majority of the committee’s members disagreed with the Knoxville police chief’s decision to not discipline Officer Matthew Janish, who held 45-year-old Tonya Jameson at gunpoint outside the home of his mother-in-law in Jefferson County in May.
“The officer just flat out disregarded any common sense,” said Frank Shanklin, a black member of the Police Advisory and Review Committee. “I think there’s some unconscious racism that caused the officer to respond like he did.”
Jameson was changing out a license plate on an SUV she had bought from Janish’s mother-in-law when the officer confronted her. She says she complied with his commands and repeatedly tried to prove ownership of the vehicle, but he kept his gun pointed at her. Janish’s wife later confirmed the sale.
Police Chief David Rausch defended the officer and said he kept the situation from escalating.
Rausch said he and Janish were “sorry this happened.”
“It had nothing to do with race,” he said. “I still believe that.”
The civilian review board’s decision to disagree with the police department is a rarity, but the board has no power over the agency.
“All we can do is make recommendations,” executive director Clarence Vaughn III said.
A majority of board members thought the officer’s actions were excessive.
“It appeared to be either racially motivated or gender bias,” said board member Ann Barker, who is white. “It seemed extreme. I can’t imagine why the gun needed to be drawn.”
Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com