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VOL. 126 | NO. 154 | Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Millington Probe Highlights Volatile Relationship

By Bill Dries

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The relationship between Millington Mayor Richard Hodges and the police chief he appointed, Ray Douglas, has been brief and volatile.

The appointment of the former Memphis Police deputy chief was one of the first changes Hodges made when he took office in 2009.

In a hard-fought 2008 election battle with incumbent Mayor Terry Jones, Hodges contended the Millington Police Department had become too aggressive.

Soon after Douglas was appointed, Hodges talked openly of Douglas having to adapt to policing in a small town.

To Hodges, that meant being less formal and less by the book.

One of the stories he told was of arguing with Douglas about whether a patrol car at a block party had to keep its engine running at all times. Hodges didn’t think so. But the argument ended with him ordering Douglas to have the officer leave the car sitting in the road with its engine and flashing lights turned off.

It was a unique adaptation for one of Shelby County’s six suburban towns and cities; usually when a town hires a police chief with big-city experience, the police department must adapt, not the chief.

The corruption investigation of Millington city government that went public last month with searches of the offices of both Hodges and Douglas is raising questions about the relationship in a more serious way with much higher stakes.

The probable cause affidavit Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent David Harmon filed in July to get the search warrants includes claims by one person interviewed and an admission from Douglas that Douglas watched as illegal gambling went on in Millington, although Douglas apparently did not participate.

Douglas also said he overheard a telephone conversation in which Hodges was allegedly trying to trade a Millington police badge for $1,000 and Douglas refused, at least initially, to give Hodges the badge.

The affidavit isn’t clear on whether the confidential informant arguing about getting the badge ever got it or got it back. Douglas told investigators that Hodges had asked him to give the informant a Millington staff reserve police badge in November. The affidavit doesn’t reflect if that ever happened and there is one reference to the informant trying to get a badge “back.”

There is a familiar refrain in the affidavit’s account of an ongoing and increasingly volatile discussion among Hodges, Douglas and the informant Hodges allegedly owed more than $10,000.

Hodges allegedly told the informant that Douglas had no choice but to turn over a badge that Hodges would give to the informant.

“Richard Hodges stated that (Douglas) does not have a choice,” the four-page account reads.

The last telephone conversation TBI agents listened in on between Hodges and the informant, who consented to having them listen in, and chronicled in the affidavit is June 24. That was just more than a month before the raids took the corruption probe public.

Initially, Hodges, still reeling from the suicide of his wife the night before the raids, did not seem surprised by word of the investigation.

He said the searches were an effort to get to him.

The affidavit show TBI agent Harmon and Tim Helldorfer, an investigator with the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office, had interviewed Douglas days earlier, on July 21, at the TBI office in Memphis – a formal sit-down interview. There is no indication whether Douglas told Hodges he was being questioned or whether others in Millington city government might have been called in for questioning.

The telephone conversation Douglas overheard in Hodges’ office about selling a police badge was July 5, according to Douglas.

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