Silencing the Lieutenant 

Acclaimed domestic violence cop gets pushed aside

Acclaimed domestic violence cop gets pushed aside

The rascals are teeming inside the Metro Police Department. It’s now under investigation by the FBI for its involvement in alleged abuses against Hispanics. But let a star win the department some otherwise rare acclaim, and the bureaucracy chews him up and spits him out.

That’s what has happened to Lt. Mark Wynn, an internationally recognized expert who, until Jan. 1, was working in the Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit created under Mayor Phil Bredesen in 1994. Wynn, who has traveled all over the world training and advising in the area of domestic violence, has letters of commendation stacked an inch thick in his personnel file. But he has been criticized and disciplined by superiors—one in particular—for such transgressions as failing to clean out his voice mailbox often enough and being tardy with paperwork.

Meanwhile, Police Department officials have selected another officer to replace Wynn and a retiring lieutenant in the Domestic Violence Unit. He is Lt. Danny A. Driskell, who has been disciplined for, among other breaches, tying a rope around the neck of a young black robbery suspect in 1984 in an attempt to intimidate the suspect and his two cohorts. He later admitted to giving false information to the department’s Internal Security Division during its investigation of the incident.

The department suspended Driskell for 30 days without pay. At that time, then-Chief Joe Casey recommended that Driskell undergo psychological evaluation, according to the officer’s personnel file.

Word of Wynn’s transfer to the Police Department’s Planning and Research section—which came last month after he filed a hostile work environment grievance against his supervisor—has sparked outrage in victims’ advocacy and prosecutor circles, particularly given the background of his replacement.

Meanwhile, Wynn, who says he can’t comment on the developments, is taking vacation until he decides whether to accept the transfer or resign.

”With him gone, I don’t know what will happen to that unit,“ says Andrea Conte, founder of the victim advocacy group, You Have the Power.

”Forming that domestic violence unit represented a huge opportunity for this community to do something proactive about domestic violence. He was recognized as a driving force behind forming that unit, and it’s a huge loss for him not to be there,“ she says. ”I am concerned. I am very concerned.“

Mayor Bill Purcell’s office has also been getting a large volume of letters and phone calls about Wynn’s transfer. So far, Purcell’s office is staying out of the controversy.

”As a matter of policy, the mayor’s office is not involved in the transfer of individual officers or employees,“ chief of staff Bill Phillips says. Phillips says the mayor’s office defers to Metro Police Chief Emmett Turner on such decisions, but adds, ”We have heard a lot of very complimentary things about Lieutenant Wynn’s performance and understand that he is a very good police officer and has done an outstanding job in his particular assignment.“

Wynn’s supervisor, Capt. Shirley Davis, accepts no role in Wynn’s transfer, saying ”that was a decision made downtown.“ But it is Davis who has filed a series of complaints against Wynn for his apparent organizational weaknesses. And it is against Davis that Wynn filed a grievance in November after an argument the two apparently had in front of other officers. Wynn was notified of his transfer after that, and while Davis denies she made the transfer request, department spokesman Don Aaron indicates otherwise.

”I think it’s fair to say that it was recommended up the chain of command, up to [Asst.] Chief [Robert] Russell, who recommended it in staff meetings. And Chief Turner generally goes along with transfer recommendations of bureau commanders,“ Aaron says. There are no superiors between Davis and Russell.

Some high-ranking police officials characterize the move as a good decision. They say that just because Wynn has helped earn acclaim for his unit, he shouldn’t be excused for not returning calls quickly enough or shuffling papers fast enough. Beyond that, the Domestic Violence Unit is viewed critically within the Police Department, and some of Wynn’s colleagues and superiors are said to be jealous of the attention he’s attracted. Other officers disagree.

”Right is never done right in this department, and wrong always makes it through,“ says one Metro police officer critical of Wynn’s transfer.

Prosecutors say the good Wynn did far outweighed his organizational weaknesses. He has been recognized by President Clinton, testified before Congress, and is generally considered a go-to person for such national organizations as the National Victim Center and the National Organization of Victim Assistance.

”Because he didn’t answer his messages or call them back right away doesn’t make them think any less about him at all,“ says Jody Folk, director of victim witness services in the Davidson County District Attorney’s office. ”He’s a shining example for the Davidson County Police Department.“

A victim of domestic violence himself who watched his mother be severely beaten more times than he could stand, a 7-year-old Wynn even tried to help his older brother kill his abusive stepfather. In an interview with the Scene just over a year ago when he was chosen by a citizen panel as the paper’s ”Nashvillian of the Year,“ Wynn noted that it was for the best that the bottle of Mad Dog 20-20 he and his brother tainted with Black Flag bug spray proved ineffective. That’s because he got a chance to use his experience to help advance advocacy for victims.

”Mark was a victim when he was a child, and when you have that kind of experience, sometimes people listen better,“ Folk says.


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