Police Officer Pleads Guilty and Resigns

Prosecutors in DA Charme Allen’s office prosecuted a case against a police officer who lied on an arrest warrant.  Joseph Charles Roberts, 23, pled guilty to Tampering with Governmental Records, a felony involving falsifying information on an affidavit.  Judge Scott Green accepted the length of sentence of two years and set the case for sentencing on June 29 where the State will argue against Roberts’ request for judicial diversion.  As part of the plea, Roberts resigned from the Knoxville Police Department.

In a plea colloquy, Deputy District Attorney Leland Price explained to the Court that on January 31, 2022, then Knoxville Police Department Officer Joseph Roberts initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle near the intersection of Oglewood Avenue and Cornelia Street.  The vehicle began to flee at a high rate of speed.  Roberts lawfully pursued the vehicle, but he can be seen turning off both his cruiser camera and his body worn camera in violation of KPD policy.  Despite his attempt to turn off the cameras, the cruiser camera automatically turned back on eight seconds later when Roberts’ speed reached a certain threshold.  Roberts continued to pursue the vehicle with lights and sirens travelling north on Central Avenue to Heiskell Avenue.  The pursuit continued onto I-275 north to I-640 east.  The vehicle pulled away from Roberts as they approached the Broadway exit.  Roberts located the vehicle again after it struck another car at the intersection of the I-640E exit ramp and Broadway.  When other officers arrived on the scene, they repeatedly asked Roberts if he was involved in a pursuit.  Even though the pursuit lasted three and a half minutes, covered over four miles, and reached speeds over one hundred miles per hour, Roberts repeatedly stated that he was not involved in a pursuit.  When Roberts later swore out warrants for the occupants of the vehicle, he again lied and made a false entry in the affidavit of complaint.  The falsification of official records was a criminal act that falls under the jurisdiction of the District Attorney to prosecute.  Additional violations of departmental policy or civil law are not issues for review by the District Attorney’s Office.

“It is imperative that citizens are able to trust law enforcement,” said DA Charme Allen.  “By repeatedly being dishonest when questioned by his supervising officers and by falsifying his sworn statements, this officer broke the law, damaged that trust, and showed that he was unfit to serve as an officer of the law.”

Tampering with Governmental Records is a Class E felony that carries a punishment from one to two years.  At sentencing, prosecutors will argue against judicial diversion so this offense stays on Roberts’ record.  Prosecutors will provide court records to the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, the regulatory body for law enforcement officers, to ensure Roberts is not permitted to seek a law enforcement position in another jurisdiction.

If you have any questions, please contact Sean McDermott at 865-215-2515 or [email protected]. For more information about the District Attorney’s Office, visit our website at dag.knoxcountytn.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.