Coffee County District Attorney General Craig Northcott

Coffee County District Attorney General Craig Northcott has requested the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference appoint a pro tem prosecutor to determine what action, if any, should be taken following the conclusion of the TBI’s investigation into the Tullahoma Police Department. Northcott said he opted to recuse himself from the matter due to his years-long working relationship with the department.

District Attorney General Craig Northcott has asked to recuse himself from deciding the outcome of a TBI investigation into the Tullahoma Police Department launched in December. 

“I have asked for a pro tem prosecutor to be assigned to review the findings of the investigation and decide what the appropriate action is,” Northcott said.

Northcott said he “believed it prudent to request a pro tem prosecutor due to my close professional relationship with the individuals involved, as well as the TPD as a whole.  I want to avoid any appearance of impropriety to ensure that the public can have confidence that the matter is being handled correctly.”

The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference in Nashville will decide who to assign to the matter.

In December, at Northcott’s request, TBI agents began investigating a complaint regarding the police department’s handling of the investigation of a November motor vehicle crash involving the Chief Paul Blackwell’s son, Jonathan Paul Blackwell. 

The TBI completed its investigation earlier this month. On Jan. 8, a TBI spokesperson said the bureau was in the process of turning its report over to Northcott for his office’s review. 

No details about the findings in that report were available. Tennessee state law dictates that all TBI investigative records are confidential.

At roughly the same time the TBI completed its report, the City of Tullahoma launched an internal investigation into police department management and the possible breach of internal protocols. Both Chief Blackwell and Capt. George Marsh were placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 7 pending the outcome of that investigation.

Northcott and city officials said the city’s investigation is unrelated to the TBI investigation and until that investigation is complete, actions related to the internal investigation are considered a personnel matter and cannot be discussed.

“The investigation is not considered complete until any potential disciplinary actions and appeal processes have been exhausted,” Public Information Officer Winston Brooks said at the time.  

While the investigation continues, Lt. Jason Ferrell is serving as acting police chief.

Kelly Lapczynski can be reached at klapczynski@tullahomanews.com.