Knoxville police change policy about notifying Vols coaches

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Knoxville police are ending their practice of making courtesy calls to Tennessee coaches about incidents involving Vols players.

After reviewing the policy with Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, police chief David Rausch said Friday ''going forward, in any incident involving a student at the university,'' police would make formal notification only to the school's law enforcement officials.

Police records released last month show that Knoxville police called Tennessee football coach Butch Jones during a 2014 rape investigation involving former players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. Rausch said at the time that police notify coaches ''as a courtesy'' when a Tennessee player is under investigation and that no information is shared that would hinder the case.

The chief said in a statement that no investigations were compromised and no improper information was provided as a result of the practice.

''But in the interest of transparency and to alleviate any appearance of conflict of interest,'' Rausch said, ''we have changed the previous practice, to ensure that investigators focus without hindrance on finding the facts and bringing justice to victims of crime.''

The Knoxville News-Sentinel first reported the policy change.

Phone records released last month show Jones received calls from Rausch and Sam Brown of the Knoxville Police Department the morning of Nov. 16, 2014, hours after a woman said she was raped.

According to Jones' phone records, he received a two-minute call from Brown at 8:20 a.m. and spoke to Johnson a few minutes later. Jones received a call from Rausch at 8:38 a.m. Jones and Rausch, the police chief, exchanged four calls totaling 21 minutes on Nov. 16, 2014, and five more calls totaling 13 minutes the next day. Jones and Brown exchanged four calls totaling 17 minutes Nov. 16, 2014, and four calls totaling 16 minutes the next day.

Johnson and Williams were suspended from the team Nov. 17, 2014, and were identified as suspects the following day. They were indicted February 2015 and have separate trial dates this summer.

When Jones' phone records from the days following the incident were released, he issued a statement saying that ''anytime we have a disciplinary issue with a player, we have as many conversations as needed with players, parents, law enforcement, whomever until we can be sure that we are making the best decision possible.''

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