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Newbern police officer fired for repeatedly smoking in police precinct

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Newbern Police officer of 17 years was terminated from his position at the Newbern Police Department last week for allegedly smoking repeatedly inside the precinct despite warnings.

Sgt. James Bishop was terminated from his position as sergeant for violation of Newbern's No Smoking policy. The State Gazette obtained a copy of Bishop's termination letter, which Newbern Police Chief Harold Dunivant sent to Bishop.

In the letter, Dunivant states under the city's no-smoking policy, smoking is prohibited in all municipal offices and buildings, which includes the police department. City employees, along with Bishop, were informed of the policy in 2007 through a memo and Dunivant stated he also advised all police department personnel it was strictly prohibited.

Dunivant stated after the policy was adopted he received a number of complaints from department personnel stating certain officers were smoking in their offices. At which time, he reminded all personnel to refrain from smoking in the offices and other municipal buildings.

In the fall of 2011, Dunivant stated he again received complaints of police personnel smoking in their offices in the police department. He again issued a reminder to personnel about the policy and issued a warning that disciplinary action would be taken against personnel found to have violated the policy.

Dunivant also stated Bishop asked him to identify the boundary of the area where the policy applied. He advised Bishop the boundary was the threshold of the exterior doors of the police department and smoking was prohibited in the interior side of the threshold.

Dunivant stated he recently received new complaints from department personnel about Bishop continuing to smoke in his office and he was forced to fire him.

"Under the circumstances, I am forced to conclude that your continued violation of both the no smoking policy, and my several warnings and admonitions, constitutes willful and intentional work related misconduct under the city's personnel policy and state law, which justify the termination of your employment," stated Dunivant in the letter to Bishop.

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Did he think he was "Above the Law"?

-- Posted by Dude2010 on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 1:44 AM

Fire him for smoking....letting criminals out...sounds fair to me..

-- Posted by Belle123 on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 4:52 AM

Was he offered any help to possibly quit smoking

-- Posted by stepreen on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 8:03 AM

Do I see a lawsuit brewing?

-- Posted by Dude2010 on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 9:20 AM

While I do believe that the department should have offered a program to stop smoking, it is ultimately his lack of responsiblity that got him fired. He knew the rules & chose to break them. The office isn't that big. He could have been outside in just a few seconds. As far as a law suit.... I really don't think an attorney would touch it. If you refuse to follow company policy, they have the right to fire you. It's pretty simple.

-- Posted by hotpocket1971 on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 9:51 AM

Who in their right mind would think they could smoke in a government office! In half the country, you can't even smoke in bars anymore...

-- Posted by swampfox on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 10:09 AM

Heres a officer that would make an arrest for someone breaking the law, and he is too lazy to follow a simple one... I hope he realize how hard it is to get jobs out here... Well, those are the type of officers that are overseeing newbern.... now u can understand why its in the shape it is.....

-- Posted by DMASE on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 12:11 PM

now does that apply to the city workers smoking in the city owned trucks too?? just wondering.

-- Posted by seniorcomment on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 12:45 PM

He can easily get his job back and some of the city's money!

-- Posted by lloyd49 on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 1:15 PM

talk about freedom! wish all these health nuts and their policies live forever!! bet they don't!

-- Posted by closerlook on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 1:21 PM

i think its the chief that needs to be fired myself.hes rude and hateful.theres not suppose to b any smoking in the police cars but they all do it why are those not fired also?bishop was a good cop just like a few others that arent there anymore.what about the dispatchers they smoke standing in th door of the pd why havnt they been fired.their standing in the pd.i think the chief is just getting rid of the ones whom he doesnt like. the ones that will stand up to his bs.newbern desperately needs a new chief.one that actually works and does what hes suppose to.i hope bishop finds a way to sue their butt off.he knows who i am very well all i can say is thank u bishop for the loan of ur coat to my daughter at the xmas parade.we love u and think u were done wrong

-- Posted by tiredofbsinnewbern on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 1:57 PM

smoking is a stupid choice but if you have to do it then abide by the rules. He could have gone outside. I think he was being pig-headed.

-- Posted by yahooo on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 5:25 PM

Just an FYI, it is VERY VERY difficult to sue in the state of Tennessee for a company firing you unless it is harassment or retalliation. Employers can fire you in the state of TN and they are not required to give a reason. Just an FYI to anyone thinking they don't have to abide by rules OR give their best at work. Sometimes the best employees are let go because of the amount of time they've been there or their age. BUT its also very hard to prove age discrimination.

-- Posted by thisismysay on Sun, Jan 22, 2012, at 6:15 PM

Smoking is ignorant and invasive to others. I'd also like to make note that it causes cancer and possible loss of important things in life...like a job! Good for you chief!

-- Posted by agentsinger on Mon, Jan 23, 2012, at 9:09 AM

tiredofbsinnewbern, you don't want the chief to mess his hair up now do you? if he has to do any thing a strand might stray.

-- Posted by seniorcomment on Mon, Jan 23, 2012, at 10:05 AM

1 in 10 lung cancers is caused by second hand smoke! Just saying...

-- Posted by Bett on Mon, Jan 23, 2012, at 11:04 AM

he never has messed his hair up why start now.and for thisismysay it may be hard to sue them but its not impossible!i mean come on when have you ever seen the chief out doing anything but riding around in his car that he dont have to pay for the gas in.the answer is NEVER he never helps the officers with a call.he is always sitting in the pd on his but.cause thats what he does best.and of course all the non smokers will stand behind his stupidness.

-- Posted by tiredofbsinnewbern on Mon, Jan 23, 2012, at 8:59 PM

It seems to me like Police Chief Dunivant had counseled the officer on smoking in the offices and the officer chose to ignore the warning. I wonder if the warning was in writing or not? After the warning the Chief had no choice but to either give him another warning or terminate his employment.

If the city has a policy about smoking it seems like it would be enforced in the vehicles also. You can't say you are getting fired for violating this policy but it's ok to continue to violate the policy somewhere else. It seems like the city has some more counseling and possible terminations to do. Perhaps they have been lax in enforcing this policy city wide.

-- Posted by MtnLover on Wed, Jan 25, 2012, at 8:57 AM

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