Two Nashville citizens appeared before a magistrate last month, and brought sufficient evidence that the magistrate signed an ex-parte emergency order of protection for them, against Metro Nashville Police Officer Cecilia Gomez. Officer Gomez, who was immediately decommissioned, as per policy, and the OPA (Office of Professional Accountability) opened an investigation into what happened.
We don’t know the details of what the OPA investigation found – because MNPD has declined to provide the Officer’s file, despite multiple attempts, which are covered below. MNPD Spokesperson Don Aaron told us that the department found “no evidence of wrongdoing by Officer Gomez”, but would not provide the files, instead we were directed to a fluff piece the Tennessean had done on the officer. The original complaint, along with signed judge’s order, was mysteriously withdrawn, expunged, and shredded, putting Officer Gomez back on the street in just 8 days, once the investigation started. What was in the exact complaint? We may never know, but here’s where it gets interesting, as she made a lot of money by being decommissioned. A lot more than she would have otherwise.
Officer Cecelia Gomez was decommissioned from 09/04/17 – 09/11/17, a total of eight days. For those 8 days, she sued, and won $5,192.30 for ‘extra jobs’ missed during that 8 day person, all while being paid her full MNPD salary during that time, which is $1,052.03 per week, working ‘desk’ style jobs.
Despite her already receiving her regular salary during that time, she sued for, and won, a judgment of $5,192.30 against one of the citizens (the other was dismissed from the suit) that the judge granted the order of protection for.
Officer Gomez claims she lost “a lot of money” because she had to cancel extra jobs those 8 days. Here’s the text of her full lawsuit she filed against the two citizens:
“I’m suing these people, for false allegations and defamation of character. The people above obtained an order of protection without domestic relationship, no proof of stalking, or harassment. I’m a police officer, and due to the fact that an O.P. was granted, I got decommissioned, and lost a lot of money. I had to cancel extra jobs, got to turn in everything. These people tried to ruin my career that I worked so hard for. I want to sue them for the amount placed, plus court fees ($167.75)”
Last week, a civil court judge issued the order above, approving the $5,192 judgment against one of the citizens, and dismissing the suit against the other.
MNPD’s failure to provide records:
We were made aware of the civil lawsuit on September 26th, and contacted the Circuit Court Clerk’s office on the morning of the 27th at 8:13 AM to get a copy of the restraining order. At 8:38 AM, the clerk’s office responded, letting us know the case had been dismissed, and asked if we preferred the entire file or just the order, to which we replied. At 10:03 AM, we received notice from the clerk’s office that the case had been expunged and destroyed as of the previous day, so they would be unable to provide any related documents.
Knowing that an a judge signed the order of protection against Officer Gomez and that it had existed, an OPA investigation had happened, and during that time Officer Gomez was decommissioned – until suddenly the order of protection case was dropped/dismissed, and OPA ‘cleared’ her, we decided to request a copy of the Officer Gomez’s personnel file, along with a copy of the OPA investigation – which seemed to be over, since they re-instated her commission, and put her back on active duty.
Our first general request about Officer Gomez got a response from Don Aaron, way back on September 27th, which said:
“Officer Gomez was decommissioned after the ex-parte Order of Protection was issued on September 4. That is generally the police department’s response until the allegations contained within an order of protection can be sorted out. In this situation, the Order of Protection was withdrawn by the petitioner on September 13 and Officer Gomez was reinstated to full duty that day. The police department found no evidence of wrongdoing by Officer Gomez. You may recall that Officer Gomez was profiled in The Tennessean in 2016. The link is attached if needed. “
Yet, the department has continued to refuse to provide a copy of Officer Gomez’s file in subsequent requests, or a copy of the OPA investigation, which seemed to be closed, since Officer Gomez we given her commission back, and restored to full duty within hours of the case being ‘withdrawn’.
On October 12th, another request was sent to the MNPD, stating containing a fully signed open records request to the media office, and received no reply or acknowledgement (a standard that is usually relatively quick, to at least say a request is being processed, rarely more than a few hours).
On October 15th, another new request was sent, with the open records request attached, once again.
On October 17th, in response to another request I had placed, someone in the press office, acknowledged the request, but again dismissed the request for the open records request, instead giving her own personal summary of what happened, instead of sending the attached request to records for processing:
“The Office of Professional Accountability did look into the order of protection that was issued, ex parte, against Officer Gomez and subsequently withdrawn. The OPA final report is not yet complete…”
Again, the department did not honor a formal request for her personnel file, and additionally stated the OPA’s final report wasn’t complete, despite the officer being cleared, and back on duty, for well over a month. On that same day, the records department was contacted directly, to ask if a reporter could request the files as an individual citizen, without going through the press office, who was delaying and not processing the requests to them – however the reply stated:
“Unfortunately, since you are media, media request go through our Public Affairs office.”
With no intention of giving up on getting someone (anyone) to process an open records request for this particular officer, on October 18th, I replied once again, asking that the 720 (open records request) form be processed. To date, there is still no clear confirmation it will be completed.
For perspective, open records request for the media are generally handled rather quickly, and I’ve never waited more than a few days to receive a request back on a personnel file, as they simply require notification to the officer that they’re being viewed, and redaction – even when they’re hundreds of pages long, a response of a few days is standard.
To date, we still don’t know what happened to cause the order of protection to be suddenly withdrawn, and Officer Gomez to be reinstated with hours, a process that other officers claim takes days to process normally. She has been back on duty for well over a month, yet the OPA claims they’re not yet done with their report, and Don Aaron’s office has yet to provide a copy of her personnel file, with or without the OPA report. We’ll follow-up, with any updates.
[Update 10/24 11:20 AM – Story was updated from “refused to provide” to better reflect “has yet to provide”, to better describe the situation, as there has not been any outright denial of a 720 request.]