CEDAR BLUFF, Va. — One of the police officers fired by the town of Tazewell following a complaint of racial profiling was recently hired as a school resource officer for Cedar Bluff during the 2019-20 school year.
T.J. Crabtree, 35, was hired in late July by the Cedar Bluff Police Department as a school resource officer for Cedar Bluff Elementary School. Police Chief Mike Brown said he was aware of Crabtree’s dismissal in Tazewell and had “absolutely no problem” with hiring him or assigning him to the position.
Brown said Crabtree met with Buffie Crabtree, the school’s principal, and she was fine with the assignment.
Attempts by The News & Press to speak with Crabtree and the school’s principal were not returned by press time Tuesday. It is not known if the two are related.
School resource officers are typically funded through state grants awarded to local police departments. Cedar Bluff Police Department was awarded $45,430 in June to fund the new position at the elementary school.
Tazewell County School Board Chairman David Woodard said the school system has never gotten involved in the hiring of officers.
Depending on where the school is located either the sheriff or police chief assigns officers to the positions.
“They're assigned by police chiefs and the sheriff. I imagine we could have some element of control, should we want to, but that hasn't been explored,” Woodard said.
Tazewell Town Manager Todd Day and Police Chief David Mills terminated Crabtree and officer D.C. Grizzel after a June 11 traffic stop resulted in an accusation of racial profiling. Grizzel, who made the stop, was using a clipboard belonging to Crabtree, who was not on duty at the time.
The clipboard had a Confederate battle flag sticker on the back and a picture of the clipboard was posted on Facebook, setting off a stream of racial profiling comments. An investigation later determined the clipboard was a gift given to Crabtree and he was not the one who placed the sticker on it. However, Mills said the department’s policy requires officers to use town-issued equipment. The policy also requires that equipment not be defaced.
Crabtree made $33,000 at the time he was fired from the Tazewell Police Department on June 17.
Day said they had no problem seeing Crabtree continue his career in law enforcement.
“That whole situation was skewed by social media,” he added. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Crabtree has since retained an attorney and has started the process of a complaint against the town, according to Day.
The town received a letter from Tazewell Attorney Fred Harman advising them he represented Crabtree and they intended to request a grievance under the law enforcement officers’ bill of rights.
Day said he referred the matter to the Virginia Municipal League, the organization that insures the town. Harman said he also working with Abingdon attorney Brad Stallard on the case.