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‘Unfit to serve’ Knoxville Police officer pleads guilty to lying on arrest report, resigns

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An officer with the Knoxville Police Department has resigned after pleading guilty to lying on an arrest warrant, according to a press release from the office of the Knox County District Attorney General.

Joseph Charles Roberts, 23, pled guilty April 14 to a charge of tampering with government records. Roberts is accused of lying and making a false entry in an affidavit of complaint related to suspects he pursued against KPD policy on January 30. Roberts had been on administrative leave and under internal scrutiny since January.

“Even though the pursuit lasted three and a half minutes, covered over four miles, and reached speeds over one hundred miles per hour, Roberts repeatedly stated that he was not involved in a pursuit,” the district attorney’s office said in a press release. “When Roberts later swore out warrants for the occupants of the vehicle, he again lied and made a false entry in the affidavit of complaint.”

Roberts lawfully pursued the vehicle, but he can be seen turning off both his cruiser camera and his body worn camera in violation of KPD policy. The department did not give a reason or explanation as to why Roberts attempted turned off the cameras.

“Despite his attempt to turn off the cameras, the cruiser camera automatically turned back on eight seconds later when Roberts’ speed reached a certain threshold,” the office said.

The pursuit traveled north on Central Avenue to Heiskell Avenue, then onto I-275 north to I-640 east, ending when the vehicle struck another car at the intersection of the I-640E exit ramp and Broadway. The press release said officers on scene asked Roberts if he was involved in a pursuit and he said he was not.

“It is imperative that citizens are able to trust law enforcement,” said DA Charme Allen. “By repeatedly being dishonest when questioned by his supervising officers and by falsifying his sworn statements, this officer broke the law, damaged that trust, and showed that he was unfit to serve as an officer of the law.”

A sentencing hearing is set for June 29. Tampering with Governmental Records is a Class E felony that carries a punishment from one to two years. At sentencing, prosecutors will argue against Robert’s request for judicial diversion so this offense stays on Roberts’ record.

Prosecutors will provide court records to the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, the regulatory body for law enforcement officers, to ensure Roberts is not permitted to seek a law enforcement position in another jurisdiction.

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