Democratic sheriff candidate Bill Kennedy
A Democratic candidate for Rutherford County sheriff was placed on administrative leave and received disciplinary action as a Lebanon Police officer after a store clerk filed a complaint alleging criminal misconduct.
An investigation by the Tennessee Bureau Investigation found no evidence of criminal misconduct by Lebanon Police Officer Bill Kennedy, but he was given a written reprimand and a one-day suspension in April for violating department policy, according to Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen.
“Our citizens have to know complaints like this will be taken seriously,” Bowen said.
The investigation into Kennedy began after a Thorntons convenience store clerk filed a complaint March 18 against Kennedy for inappropriate conduct on duty, according to information in Kennedy’s personnel file obtained through an open records request.
Chief Bowen said he turned the matter over to the district attorney’s office and asked TBI to investigate as a third party after placing Kennedy on administrative leave March 20. Even though TBI turned up no criminal activity by Kennedy, during the investigation Kennedy admitted leaving his patrol zone without his supervisor’s permission and staying at Thorntons, outside his patrol zone, for an hour and 15 minutes, according to the disciplinary report in his file.
Kennedy also failed to check out as required by policy and admitted to allowing a female – another clerk at Thorntons – to ride in his patrol car while he was on duty, according to the chief. The initial complaint was made while Kennedy was committing the violations, the disciplinary report states.
Reached for comment, Kennedy acknowledged he was out of his zone but said the woman in the car with him was a friend who needed a ride.
“It was obvious I had violated the policy and procedure and was out of my zone, and they reprimanded me for it, Kennedy said.
The combination of being out of zone, failing to check out and being out for an hour and 15 minutes netted Kennedy a one-day suspension, according to the report. For allowing the woman to ride in the patrol without a supervisor’s permission, he received a written reprimand, the report states.
“Once we confronted Bill about the situation, he admitted his wrongdoing and accepted the punishment,” Bowen said, adding Kennedy had no other bad reports. “He accepted responsibility for his actions.”
Kennedy, who was the supervisor of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s School Resource Officers Division under Sheriff Truman Jones, left the office here after Sheriff Robert Arnold won election as a Republican in 2010. He later took a job with Lebanon Police and was nominated this winter as the Democratic candidate for sheriff in the Aug. 7 county general election.
It was the first disciplinary action Kennedy received in 23 years in law enforcement. In 1995 he received an NASRO Officer of the Year Presidential Citation for identifying three Laotian gang members came onto the Oakland High campus and were wanted for murder and arson in Memphis.
A year later, he was named Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department Officer of the Year. In 2000, under his leadership the Rutherford County School Resource Officer program was named the nation’s best.
Kennedy recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council for keeping schools safe and working with young people.