JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL)- A group of protesters is calling for a full investigation into allegations of mishandled rape cases by the Johnson City Police Department and the suspension of Police Chief Karl Turner.
People gathered Thursday outside of Johnson City’s city hall to protest in response to the alleged inconsistent handling of sexual assault cases, brought to public eye in a lawsuit filed by a former federal investigator who claimed she was fired by Turner in retaliation for repeatedly trying to build a stronger case against a man referred to in documents as “Robert Voe.”
The protest took place at the time of Johnson City’s first scheduled commission meeting since the lawsuit was filed June 23.
While the topic was not on the agenda, commissioners met in a closed-door meeting, ahead of the scheduled regular-called 6 p.m. meeting, to discuss the lawsuit and the allegations filed against the city, its police chief and three unnamed JCPD police officers.
“Our physical objective is to fill the chamber halls to capacity and whoever is left will be out here with signs,” said protest organizer Ben Putland.
Protesters sat inside the meeting when it began and lined the streets outside city hall to voice their concerns.
Signs posted outside of city hall are reminding protesters that disruption of the commission meeting is not allowed.
The group gathering to protest outlined four demands of city leadership:
- First – That Chief Turner is suspended pending a third-party investigation of the department’s handling of sexual assault cases.
- Second – To test any untested rape kits at JCPD
- Third – Diverting some department funds to programs helping sexual assault victims
- And last – to establish a community accountability board for police oversight
“It’s disgusting that we are going to have a department that operates with any slack or corruption. They are supposed to be guardians of our community. Sexual assault is one of the worst crimes you can commit, and we seem to have an absolute plague of it here,” said Putland.
Johnson City city manager Cathy Ball told News Channel 11 the city will pursue a third party, external investigation of the allegations made against the police department.
She made no mention of suspending Police Chief Karl Turner while that review takes place.