A Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) deputy chief who is running for political office in his home of Sumner County appears to be violating department policy by wearing his police uniform while off-duty.
MNPD Deputy Chief Chris Taylor, who as a resident of Sumner County is currently a member of the Sumner County Board of Commissioners, is running in the May 3 Republican primary for the office of Sumner County Mayor.
Taylor was elected as a Sumner County commissioner in 2014, and currently serves as the chairman of the budget committee, as well as being a member of the legislative committee.
On August 4, 2020, via the first post to a Facebook page titled “Chris Taylor for Mayor,” Taylor made known his intention to run for the office.
The same month that Taylor announced his intention to run for Sumner County mayor, video evidence shows that he also began wearing his MNPD uniform to meetings of Sumner County Commission committees on which he sits.
The Metropolitan Police Department Manual, published August 20, 2018, has a Clothing and Equipment chapter with the stated purpose of establishing “guidelines regarding the department’s dress code, equipment and use of insignia.”
The policy within the chapter addresses that “all MNPD personnel present a professional appearance at all times while on duty and/or conducting business for the MNPD. All MNPD employees shall adhere to the policies and procedures described herein.”
After describing the requirement to wear a complete, departmentally approved uniform, the policy goes on to detail in sections B and C the wearing of uniforms when off-duty.
B. Employees shall only wear the departmental uniform while on-duty, en route to or from duty, departmentally approved events, or when authorized by established policy. (Category D)
C. Employees shall not wear uniforms while in an off-duty status except when authorized by established policy. (Category D)
The “Category D” reference is to the Offense Category within the Disciplinary/Corrective Action Grid Chart also contained in the manual. The Offense Category range is from the highest of AA and the lowest of F. The grid lays out the retention period for the offense and the disciplinary action for first, second and third offenses.
A Category D offense retention period is 36 months and a first offense is subject to a 1-to-4-day suspension and goes up to a 5-to-10-day suspension for a third offense.
On the Sumner County IT Department YouTube channel, which contains videos from committee meetings, Taylor can be observed during 2021 in no less than 10 meetings in his MNPD uniform, including the August 9 Budget Committee, September 13 Budget and Legislative committees, September 22 Redistricting Committee, October 12 Legislative and Budget committees, October 20 Redistricting Committee, November 8 Legislative and Budget committees, and the December 6 Budget Committee.
Committee meetings have not been recorded and posted to the YouTube channel since the early December 2021 meeting to determine if Taylor has continued the practice of wearing his uniform to committee meetings beyond December 6. However, a review of videos from 2021 committee meetings prior to August reveal that Taylor did not wear his uniform prior to announcing his run for Sumner County mayor.
A review of videos from meetings of the full county commission retained on the county clerk’s website reveal no evidence of Taylor wearing his MNPD uniform to any of those meetings back to the beginning of 2021.
Taylor also posted to his political campaign’s “Chris Taylor for Mayor” Facebook page, several occasions and locations in Sumner County during which he was in uniform.
One such post was at 1:17 p.m. on Thursday, September 30, 2021, at the eighth-grade recognition with his daughter at Ellis Middle School in Hendersonville.
In two other posts to his campaign Facebook page, Taylor’s description accompanying photos said he was at the WQKR radio station in Portland on November 1 and at the Hendersonville Christmas parade, which was held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 4. It appears that both of these posts have since been deleted, as neither is currently available on Facebook.
According to guidance from the General Counsel of the National Fraternal Order of Police uploaded in April 2021, “The Hatch Act: The Political Process and You,” it is “impermissible” for officers or employees to “run for any elected partisan office.”
A complaint regarding Taylor’s conduct related to treatment of his subordinates was also filed with the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), The Tennessee Star was told by a source close to the matter who wishes to remain anonymous until the OPA investigation into the matter is complete.
Taylor was promoted by Chief John Drake in December 2020 from captain to the rank of deputy chief in a newly created chief of staff position. A 28-year veteran of MNPD at the time, Taylor’s previous position was captain, overseeing officers working for Metro Parks Police.
Chief Drake was contacted by The Star via email on Monday asking Drake for comment regarding the three incidents of Taylor wearing his uniform while off-duty, a potential violation of the Hatch Act in running in a partisan race, and the complaint to the OPA. Drake was asked for a response by noon on Tuesday, April 12.
A public affairs officer for the chief of police advised The Star via email Tuesday morning that the questions will be reviewed by the office and they will “respond sometime this week depending on breaking events.”
Although it is unclear as to whether it was related to wearing his uniform in violation of department policy, a violation of the Hatch Act, the complaint about his conduct, or some other cause, Taylor’s title at MNPD changed somewhere between the dates of March 29 and April 11.
A screen capture of Taylor on the Chief of Police page of the nashville.gov website showed that Taylor’s title on March 29 was Deputy Chief of Staff. On April 11, Taylor’s title on the webpage only read Deputy Chief.
Additionally, a sentence was removed from the webpage description of Taylor’s position. “Deputy Chief/Chief of Staff Chris Taylor is a liaison between Metro Nashville Police Department Bureaus and Chief of Police John Drake,” is no longer included on the page where it had appeared on March 29.
The annual pay for the position of Sumner County mayor that Taylor is pursuing is $130,805, according to the 2021-2022 budget document. At an annual salary of $188,471.39, according to a Nashville government employee database, Taylor’s current position of deputy chief is in the top 20 highest paid employees in Metro Nashville government within the 23rd largest city in the United States, according to World Population Review.
According to his year-end 2021 report and first-quarter 2022 report campaign filings with the Sumner County Election Commission, Taylor raised $53,074 and $56,150, respectively, and has a $72,484.97 balance on-hand as of April 11.
Taylor faces off in the May 3 Republican primary for Sumner County Mayor against current Assessor of Property John Isbell, according to a condensed sample ballot from the Sumner County Elections Commission, with early voting from April 13 through April 28.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News.
Photo “Chris Taylor” by Chris Taylor. Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.