A strong outside leader should have been chosen as chief of the Chattanooga Police Department, City Council Chairman Leamon Pierce said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
Saying the city has been facing a number of police lawsuits with costs of up to $2 million, he said, "I did not feel that we had nobody strong enough within the department to bring the police department in line."
He also questioned the appointment process used by Mayor Ron Littlefield that led to the elevation of Executive Chief Freeman Cooper to chief and said politics was involved.
Chairman Pierce said he had no personal grudge with Chief Cooper, and he said his opposition to his appointment did not relate to a recent run-in he (Cooper) had with his (Pierce's) niece. The niece was arrested after she allegedly struck Chief Cooper when he tried to take off a ring he had given her.
He said, "I felt we needed a no-nonsense person to lead the department. That's how strongly I feel about the department. It's not your average department. It's involved in all the lives of the citizens."
Chairman Pierce said he was "leery of choosing somebody from within who has known each other for years because of the good ole buddy thing - the Code Blue. They are going to protect each other."
He said he would have liked to have seen an administrator in the post "who is capable of managing a multi-million-dollar budget and managing 400-plus officers."
He said he would have voted against the Cooper nomination had he been at Tuesday night's meeting. He said he was in New York on a trip that had been arranged earlier. He said he tried to get an earlier flight to make it to the session, but was unable to get there.
He also said he would have asked a number of questions about the appointment. The other eight council members voted in favor.
Chairman Pierce questioned whether the matter was brought up for a vote at a time when he was going to be absent.
He said Mayor Littlefield "said from Day 1 that Chief Cooper had the heads up. Then why do you go through the process if you have already decided what you are going to do?"
He noted that Dan Johnson and Al Chapman of the mayor's staff sat in on the interviews, but he said neither one has any law enforcement experience. He said, "I cannot see that either one of them has any formal knowledge of what to ask or what to look for."
He said some outside candidates were apparently contacted by Internet and interviewed over the phone by Mayor Littlefield. He said, "Is that a proper way to conduct a search for a police chief?"
Chairman Pierce said Jimmie Dotson had been brought in from the outside "to take the politics out of the police department."
He said Chief Dotson was performing well, but he said Mayor Bob Corker didn't like him and forced him out.
He said Mayor Corker then "micromanaged" the police department, including naming members of its administration.
Chairman Pierce said he hopes Mayor Littlefield will not do the same, "but the handwriting is on the wall."
He said he was surprised that Chief Cooper was interested in the post, saying he had told him recently there was "no way he wanted to be chief. He said he had three years to go if he could make it that long."
Chairman Pierce said, "I'm not saying Chief Cooper will not make a strong chief. I wish him well."