Chattanooga was recently voted the fourth worst run city in the country.
Democrat Mayor Andy Berke, in charge of the city since 2013, has been plagued by personal and ethics scandals. As a result of Berke’s abysmal lack of moral leadership the first responders have suffered immensely as have the city’s 34% African American population.
The black population and law enforcement community are not mutually exclusive, as both have been victims of the counter productive policies set forth by a corrupt and selfish mayoral administration.
For example, the 2nd floor of City Hall has focused on gentrification and financial gain rather than working class citizens.
Another instance of how the mayor, who was an attorney who defended criminals for years, hasn’t governed properly is that he’s largely ignored the opioid and gang crisis. The Mayor chose to focus on popular national issues such as hate crimes.
Hate crimes, while they are egregious and reprehensible, are rare in the city.
It became obvious that the Mayor was letting his U.S Senate ambitions take top priority which meant pandering to the Huffington Post and ANTIFA narrative. The real problems on the street are homicides stemming from a gang war and fentanyl crisis killing dozens of citizens; yet the funding and man power has gone to a flashy new task force inspired by the Jussie Smollett fiasco.
MSNBC pundits and leftist lobbyists on K street seemed to be influencing Andy Berke’s initiatives and rhetoric more than the unique dilemmas Chattanooga’s 179,139 residents face on a daily basis.
Having badges and guns doesn’t make an organization in the city government immune from being short staffed, underpaid and hung out to dry by the Mayor and his sycophant named Police Chief David Roddy.
Roddy, once a highly respected S.W.A.T cop, was hand picked from his position in Internal Affairs.
During his time in Internal Affairs, several Chattanooga police officers were arrested for rape, kidnapping, possession of child pornography, driving while intoxicated, brutality, and other gross misconduct.
Currently the F.B.I is investigating retired brass in the Chattanooga P.D, as a Federal lawsuit alleges that the upper echelon obfuscated evidence in order to protect the thin blue line.
Roddy seems to be getting groomed by Berke to become a politician and the metamorphosis from a tactical expert S.W.A.T cop to a polished media savvy spokesperson has frustrated some of the rank and file. Cops generally want a Chief that vehemently fights for them and doesn’t acquiesce to political pressure from elected officials, wealthy donors and community activists.
When officers are fired on by predicate felons or getting shot by emotionally disturbed teenagers, Roddy seems hesitant to commend his officers on a job well done due to optics and pressure from outside entities.
Some of the City Council, the Mayor and the new civilian-police oversight board don’t understand the pressure and life and death situations officers face everyday they clock in because they have never been in a cop’s shoes before.
These civilian critics have never buried a friend who was killed in the line of duty, they have never had to defend their life by using deadly force, they have never had to fear an angry mob coming out to slander them after their name, picture and address is made public.
This new oversight board was designed to reign in an agency deemed by community activists and some council members as racist, unnecessarily violent and spiraling out of control. Unwarranted divisive vitriol has been unfairly hurled at all law enforcement officers; stereotyping all 500 cops as racist cowboys operating with impunity and an iron fist.
One of the most outspoken and influential activists is Marie Mott, who is running in District 8 for city council.
Marie plans on completely revamping the police department by defunding them and empowering a self governing style where community members patrol their own neighborhoods. This is popular among many black residents who feel completely disenfranchised by broken promises from the Mayor and a police department commonly viewed as bogged down in scandals and managed by a “good ol boys club”.
The majority of the department consists of mostly caucasian male officers tasked with enforcing laws in predominantly black areas of the city. Attracting more minority officers has been a human resources problem and recruitment nightmare.
Several black male cops with questionable backgrounds were hired onto the department out of desperation to increase diversity and as a result went on to be internally disciplined or arrested for rape or sexual harassment.
Officer Ricky Ballard, for instance, received a 160 hour suspension for sexually harassing several female police cadets which included touching them without permission. Some female officers feared coming forward with allegations due to retribution.
Ballard denied guilt and is back on the job with just a slap on the wrist.
Former Chattanooga police officer Bryan Moody is currently in Federal prison for viewing child pornography and was apprehended in an undercover sting.
According to the Chattanooga Times, the F.B.I is currently investigating a former Assistant Chief and Captain for possibly covering up alleged rapes by one of their officers.
“The decorated officers — retired Assistant Chief Edwin McPherson and retired Capt. Pedro Bacon — and their potential roles in a cover-up are being looked into as part of ongoing investigations. Logan is under investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. He was previously the subject of an internal affairs investigation by the Chattanooga Police Department.”
The Times also detailed another officer’s arrest. Officer Benjamin Dessalines has been accused of preying on victims while on duty.
“Dessalines was arrested and charged with felony kidnapping and felony sexual battery after allegedly taking a woman caught shoplifting to his apartment fondling her and telling her he wanted to have sex with her.”
Several other officers have been arrested for sexual misconduct and many people around town have become furious with the condition of the department that is paid with tax revenue and court fees to protect and serve us.
Proficiency and ethics has seemed to decline under Mayor Berke’s tenure but so has equipment vital to mission effectiveness. Most of the Chattanooga P.D patrol cars have too much mileage on them and are experiencing acceleration and mechanical deficiencies as a result.
Bureaucratic red tape is the common scape goat for why new patrol cars aren’t put into service.
With a $262 million dollar annual city budget, one would expect pay raises for officers fighting an epidemic of gang violence and a never ending supply of fentanyl killing citizens from all walks of life via overdoses.
Year after year the police seem to be getting passed over and short changed so the Mayor can fund more of his inept social programs such as the failed “Homeless Coalition” which has actually increased the homeless population in the city.
The homeless coalition has been a disaster due to the Mayor filling key billets with his incompetent friends who are in it for a paycheck rather than altruism. Tensions at city council meetings have reached a boiling point and a popular city councilwoman in charge of District 9 named Demetrus Coonrod who is herself a convicted felon and political lightning rod has called on Police Chief Roddy to be investigated federally for allegedly being complicit in covering up systemic police corruption.
The Chattanooga P.D was once considered an excellent department who responded to a terrorist attack on July 16th, 2015 with courage and efficiency to eliminate an Islamic extremist who murdered 4 U.S Marines and a Sailor.
Officers responded bravely with their AR-15s and risked their lives to save wounded service members and to kill a heavily armed indoctrinated terrorist hell bent on murdering as many Americans as possible. Several Chattanooga Police Officers received awards and were recognized by the state of Tennessee for their heroism.
Pledging to alleviate the problems plaguing the Chattanooga P.D a new figure has emerged in Chattanooga named Andrew McLaren. McLaren is an Independent and former U.S Marine who served in Iraq and Liberia before becoming a Blackwater USA State Department operator in Baghdad.
McLaren is currently a private investigator and has appeared in several military themed movies and television series including “Chrome Underground” and “Stars Earn Stripes”.
He says he wants to give all 500 cops a $10,000 annual salary raise to stop the estimated 3 officers per month from leaving the department due to low pay, retirement or dangerous work conditions.
This pay raise will make the municipal police more competitive with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s who are recruiting officers out of the city by enticing them with take home cars, more money and an attentive brass. The Sheriffs have a solid social media platform.
Having proactive and creative social media pages to distribute information and enhance the image of the Chattanooga P.D has been an area that McLaren says he will improve upon.
The current Police brass seem to not understand the value of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with regards to recruitment and winning the hearts and minds of community members. Hamilton County Sheriffs defend their deputies and bridge the civilian law enforcement divide with timely and interesting pictures and posts showing deputies fishing with kids in the area.
Chattanooga’s Police pages seem to be delayed in posting vital and urgent information such as missing elderly persons and have been ineffective in promoting content in a positive and engaging manner the way other departments have.
McLaren says he will bring in a top notch social media team and champion community policing. McLaren says his candidacy is not motivated by money and if elected will only accept a rookie cop salary of $34,000 a year putting the remaining $128,000 into investing in humanitarian causes in Chattanooga.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of cops in Chattanooga are honorable, ethical and heroic.
Every day they put their vests and duty belt on and enter gang war zones.
These facts however aren’t salacious enough to make the front page or go viral. The department is losing with regards to community relations and has taken a devastating blow in the court of public opinion as arrested cop’s mug shots are blasted across social media.
Recruitment and retention of the best and brightest sworn officers is essential to saving the image and morale of the department.
Mayor Andy Berke is unable to run again in 2021 due to term limits and has abandoned his Senate campaign for more lucrative endeavors.
A change in leadership will hopefully rebuild the reputation and proficiency of the Chattanooga P.D and make the city a safer and more united vibrant southern river town adjacent to legendary mountains and Ruby Falls.