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September 6, 2006

Hanceville council upholds decision to fire police officer

HANCEVILLE — A police officer convicted of criminal trespassing in Blount County last month was told by the City Council Tuesday a decision to fire him would stand.

Former Hanceville Police Officer Thomas G. Sorrell formally appealed his termination before the City Council last week.

After spending more than an hour in executive session Tuesday, the council voted 5 to 1 in favor of upholding Police Chief Philip Bray’s decision to fire Sorrell.

During testimony, Bray said Sorrell was fired for repeatedly exercising “poor judgment.” He also said Sorrell was disciplined at least three times for lack of judgment, the last incident resulting in his termination.

“It’s sad, because I really like Tom. He was a very dedicated officer, and I wish all of our officers had his dedication,” Bray said. “But his ability to make sound decisions was lacking.”

According to Bray, the loss of Sorrell and other officers has left the department short-handed. He said they have already begun searching for replacement officers.

Of the council members, only JoAnn Walls voted to overturn Bray’s decision. Before casting her vote, she said she was not convinced “above a reasonable doubt” that Sorrell deserved to be fired.

Sorrell himself returned from executive session a few minutes before the council. During that time, he thanked more than a dozen supporters and family members who turned out to give moral support.

He also read portions of a prepared statement:

“Instead of labeling it as an honest mistake, [Bray] calls it poor judgment,” Sorrell said. “I agree. I exercised terrible judgment, when I placed my job ahead of my family. If I get my job back, my family will come first.”

His statement also made a brief segue into the incidents surrounding his father’s suicide in 2005.

According to an article in The Birmingham News, his father, acting Parrish City Police Chief Oscar “Sonny” Sorrell, was found fatally shot near a granite memorial to slain police officers in Birmingham. He was reportedly in full uniform and had a .45 caliber pistol in his hand.

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