Bristol, TN – A Tennessee police officer was terminated from the force in November, after he told a state senator’s daughter how he truly felt about the chief’s orders to ticket for window tinting.
Bristol Police Department (BPD) Officer Phil Kiersnowski’s conversation with Sam Lundberg, the daughter of Sen. Jon Lundberg, was captured on the officer’s bodycam.
Although Officer Kiersnowski didn’t realize it at the time, Sam called her father when she was pulled over, and the senator heard much of the conversation that followed, WKRN reported.
In the video, Officer Kiersnowski was heard chatting with Sam about her window tint.
“It’s dark as hell!” he said.
Sam told him that another officer had already checked her tint the month prior, and that he told her it was fine.
During the good-natured exchange, Officer Kiersnowski told her that another officer was responding with an instrument that would measure the exact tint.
He then covered the microphone on his lapel, although the recorder still captured what he said next.
“I’m going to be honest with you,” Officer Kiersnowski said. “If it’s dark, if it’s over the legal limit, I am going to give you a citation, however, that’s just because the admin’s on our ass about the window tint.”
“One phone call from your dad would probably get rid of it and save all of us a lot of heartache,” the officer continued.
Before uncovering his microphone, Officer Kiersnowski urged Sam one last time to contact her father.
“One call from your dad would probably make all of this go away,” he said.
After the meter confirmed that Sam’s window tint was too dark, Officer Kiersnowski issued her a citation.
“I hate doing this, but our admin’s on us real heavy,” he said. “A lot of us don’t agree with it, but…”
He also told her that if she removed the tint, the judge would dismiss the citation and treat it as a warning.
After the stop, Sen. Lundberg contacted BPD Chief Blaine Wade to make light of the fact that both his daughter and his wife had received traffic tickets on the same day, WKRN reported.
“At the time, I thought it was actually kind of funny,” he said.
“Since I have a personal relationship with the chief I called him and I was truly laughing and said, ‘Hey chief, I’m on my way back from Nashville, I’m about an hour away, if you’re targeting my entire family, I’ll be there,’” Sen. Lundberg recalled.
After assuring him that the BPD wasn’t targeting his family, Chief Wade invited him to come view with bodycam footage the next day, the senator said.
“He was at his desk and literally he said, ‘There’s the officer’s badge on my desk, he has been relieved of duty and he’ll be fired within 24 hours,’” Sen. Lundberg told WKRN. “My reaction is, ‘Fired for what?’”
According to WKRN, Chief Wade issued a memo on Nov. 30, and said that Officer Kiersnowski was terminated for two reasons.
“After reviewing the video, it is apparent that Officer Kiersnowski attempted to disable his audio which could be evidence and is also part of the official records of the police department,” the chief wrote. “Officer Kiersnowski was insubordinate with his attempt to persuade someone to take action to change police department policy that he does not agree with.”
Although Kiersnowski admitted that he should have handled the situation differently, he and Sen. Lundberg were shocked to learn of the termination.
“My wife has been in tears over this,” Sen. Lundberg said. “My daughter has been in tears. She thinks she’s at fault for this. Should he have said, ‘Hey, one call and this could go away?’ No, he shouldn’t have. Should he have covered up his microphone? No, clearly, but all of those are I think teachable moments.”
“I never should’ve covered the mic,” Kiersnowski concurred. “I regret that decision, but I stand by the comments I made. The way I went about it was wrong, yes.”
The senator felt so strongly that Kiersnowski was over-punished, that he hired an attorney to help the former officer regain his badge.
“He was doing his job, and he didn’t want to do that job, clearly, and he still did it,” Sen. Lundberg said. “That’s why he deserves to be back.”
Despite having appealed the chief’s decision, Kiersnowski confirmed that the city ultimately upheld his termination last week.
“I think when the chief got a call from Senator Lundberg, he was embarrassed that I didn’t agree with his tint policy,” Kiersnowski told WCYB. “I’m being punished for it.”
Sam has removed her window tint, which will likely result in dismissal of the ticket altogether, the senator told WKRN.
You can watch footage of former Officer Kiersnowski’s traffic stop with Sam below: