Nashville police banned from Web site purchases pending investigation

| Monday, January 16, 2006

The store is closed, at least temporarily, for any Nashville police officers hoping to make a purchase on a controversial government-run Web site.

On Friday, Jan. 13, the Nashville Police Department banned all of its 1,700 employees from making purchases on eBid – the department’s online auction site for seized and confiscated items – until an investigation into possible wrongdoing could be investigated.

The probe comes after area newspaper The Tennessean found that at least 28 employees had made 148 purchases on the site. Although purchasing by officers isn’t expressly forbidden, a policy forbidding any employee who “has personal or first-hand information regarding the condition of any item available for auction” was in place at the time.

“The prohibition against police employees purchasing items sold through eBid is to help ensure that the police department remains above reproach, in that, from time to time, a variety of items sold through eBid come through the department,” Police Chief Ronal Serpas said in a memo to the patrol, according to The Tennessean.

Problems with eBid first surfaced after Col. Lynn Pitts, former head and highest-ranking uniform officer of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, resigned after it was found that he purchased a boat through the Web site, which violated policy.

The ban is the latest in a string of scandals in Tennessee ’s state and local police forces, which have been repeatedly uncovered by The Tennessean. The newspaper has uncovered more than a dozen incidents, with allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to high-level cronyism.

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