PORTLAND, Tenn. (WSMV) – Late in the night in August 2020, Portland officers Ebram Azer and Tanner Craddock noticed an SUV driving without headlights on.
According to an internal police investigation obtained by WSMV4 Investigates, Craddock immediately recognized the driver as Kristen Daughtry, a Portland Chamber of Commerce employee.
He also knew something was off about Daughtry; she had slurred speech, glassy eyes, and smelled of alcohol.
Ebram conducted a sobriety test, noting over and over again that Daughtry failed.
But Daughtry was never arrested and never charged.
A WSMV4 Investigation uncovered why.
A police officer escort from a DUI investigation
Azer is repeatedly featured on the Portland Police Department’s Facebook page, showing his skills for DUI assessment.
And on the night Daughtry was pulled over, Azer started conducting field sobriety tests.
He also started recording audio of the stop, even though it’s unclear why. When WSMV4 Investigates filed an open records request for body camera footage, we were that the officers did not have body cameras at the time.
But the audio reveals that Azer asked Daughtry to confirm how many glasses of wine she’s drank that night. The answer: two, five-ounce glasses, and hadn’t eat much either.
Azer then instructs her to walk heel to toe, counting as she went.
In the audio, he notes, after each step, that she misses and also makes an improper turn.
At one point, he notes to himself that Daughtry loses her balance while counting.
In the internal police investigation afterwards, Azer said that Daughtry was definitely intoxicated, at least above a .08 blood alcohol level. Both Azer and Craddock confirm to the police investigator that they received a call from Sgt. Charlie Hope, a supervisor on another shift.
In the internal report, there are conflicting reports how it is that Hope found out that Daughtry had been pulled over.
Another officer who came to the scene, identified only as Officer Long, said that Hope had called him, saying, “Kristen had called (Hope) telling him that she had been stopped.”
The report states that Long said, “Sgt. Hope asked if Kristen was going to jail and asked if there was anything that can be done.”
Long told an investigator that he told Hope that he didn’t know all of the details and advised him to call officer Craddock or Azer.
Long noted to the investigator, “In retrospect, that he should not have done this.”
Hope told the police investigator that Daughtry never called him, but he learned that she was stopped by looking at the CAD (computer assisted dispatch) system.
Regardless of how Hope learned of Daughtry’s DUI stop, all the officers said that Hope arrived on the scene, put Daughtry in his car and drove her home.
Hope also had another friend, identified as a Portland firefighter, drive her vehicle home.
Daughtry was never arrested and never charged, and no officers were demoted.
“I think it’s heartbreaking,” said Alex Otte, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
When WSMV4 Investigates shared the findings from the internal police investigation with Otte, who had strong opinions about the interference.
At the age of 13, Otte was struck by a drunk boater, shattering bones in her body and causing her to lose a leg.
“I wake up every morning and put a leg on because someone else made a choice to drive drunk,” Otte said.
WSMV4 Investigates asked her what message the DUI interference sends.
“I think that the message that is sends is that the rules don’t apply to everyone,” Otte said.
“Is she borderline drunk?”
According to the internal investigation, Hope said that he called the officers, asking if Daughtry was “borderline” drunk, and if he could come pick her up and take her home.
“Is borderline drunk ever OK to stop a DUI investigation?” asked WSMV4 Investigates.
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Otte said.
According to the officers interviewed for the internal investigations, they describe being angry and saying, “It shouldn’t have happened.”
Hope himself acknowledges it as well, telling the investigator that he apologized for putting those officers in that position. As for disciplinary actions, Chief Jason Williams found Hope abused his position and docked him three days of pay.
Hope remains on the police force, and this year was congratulated on Portland Police’s Facebook page for being named a detective.
“Do I believe this officer was held accountable in a way that will make sure that he will never make this choice again? No,” Otte said.
WSMV4 Investigates reached out to Williams, Hope, Azer and Craddock, and went by the police department looking for comment but were told none were available. An email from Williams to WSMV Investigates read in part, “Nobody from (Portland police) will be participating in an interview.”
WSMV4 Investigates also reached out to Daughtry and went to the Portland Chamber of Commerce but were told she was not at work.
Daughtry who did not respond to our calls and email.
“All this situation did was give this individual another chance to do what someone did to me,” Otte said.
In a statement sent to WSMV4 Investigates, Williams wrote in part, “Disciplinary decisions are always judgment calls. You can never know if the right decision was made until some time has passed. In this case … the officer in question has offered nothing but exemplary service since the incident.”
Also, the investigative file indicated that a citizen in Portland reached out to district attorney Ray Whitley to review the DUI interference.
Whitley wrote in a letter that he found the police department had fully investigated the interference and that there is no evidence to warrant any additional charges.
If you have something you’d like the WSMV4 Investigates team to expose, please contact us here or call 615-353-2474.
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