Metro-Nashville narcotics officer arrested for stealing over $5K

James Dunaway (Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro-Nashville police say they arrested one of their own Wednesday for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars.

According to a press release, Sgt. James Dunaway was charged with felony theft and has been decommissioned of any police authority.

Dunaway worked in narcotics with the Specialized Investigations Division.

His arrest comes after Metro police conducted a sting authorized by Chief Steve Anderson during which the 42-year-old allegedly pocketed more than $5,000 in cash.

The sting, set up by the police department’s Office of Professional Accountability, took place late Wednesday afternoon at a local motel.

Dunaway and other officers reportedly went to the motel to conduct a drug investigation, not knowing $28,000 and four pounds of marijuana were placed inside the room by the police department itself.

Metro police say the room was also wired with undercover cameras, on which Dunaway is allegedly seen taking money from different locations inside the room and placing it into his pocket.

A total of $5,860 of the $28,000 was taken. There was no improper handling of the marijuana.

The press release states a secret investigation began last September after an incident Sept. 13. Metro police said undercover detectives executed a drug search warrant on Spence Enclave Way, and Dunaway was among the officers who assisted in the search due to the large amounts of contraband found, which included 3 pounds of cocaine, 11 pounds of marijuana and more than $70,000 cash.

As the home was being processed, one of the officers reported he saw Dunaway take some of the cash and put it into his pocket. The officer later told a police department supervisor, causing Dunaway to come under scrutiny without his knowledge, police said.

“When an allegation of badge betrayal comes to my attention, it will be investigated fully,” Chief Anderson stated. “I am both angered and disappointed by what took place in the motel room this afternoon. The credibility of the Nashville Police Department in all that we do is of paramount importance. I am proud of the officer who came forward in September. This community should expect nothing less than a commitment to absolute professionalism by officers regardless of assignment.”

Metro police added that Chief Anderson said there is no indication from the investigation that any other detective was involved in the alleged criminal activity.

Dunaway, 42, is a 16-year police department employee. He transferred to the SID Narcotics Unit in July 2015. Prior to that, he supervised the Madison Precinct’s Crime Suppression Unit beginning in January 2012.

According to police, the detectives investigating this case are not able to place a charge of official misconduct against Dunaway at this time. Under Tennessee law, an official misconduct charge can only result from a grand jury indictment.