Last week it was announced that Bobby Dodd would be retiring from his post as police chief after being appointed by then Mayor Littlefield in 2010. Many have said it was the only good thing Mayor Littlefield did while in office while a few others seems to be ready for Dodd to go. I read a host of comment in support of Dodd walking out the door while a great deal of others seem genuinely sad that he is retiring.
After reading some of the hateful messages from the public I am left wondering why they feel this way? Are they resting the sole responsibility of crime on his shoulders? Did they feel he didn't do all that could be done? Was he just another out of touch talking head that was just there to help the downtown politics do as they pleased? I have spoken with various police officers and while there is some mixed feelings the majority feel that he did an outstanding job.
I'm sure Chief Dodd pays as much attention to the criticism as he does the praise, but one does not attain that high of position without realizing that you will never make everyone happy and sometimes doing the right thing means making people upset. I tend not to focus so much on negative comments lacking substance but rather what made him a wake up call amongst the rank and file.
After speaking with several officers the first thing I wanted to know was why Chief Dodd was so well liked? "He hit the ground running, wasting no time attacking the dwindling morale of officers," said a patrol officer. "He made small, but significant changes almost immediately that started to change officers' attitudes." Many of the things the officers spoke about seem trivial to outsiders, but to these officers it made a monumental difference in their daily job and obviously something that was desperately needed in the Chattanooga Police Department. "He was different than any chief I had seen in my career. He would walk into a room and instead of buddying up with brass, he was talking and joking with rookies and other officers," said a veteran who went on to say, "This is where many before had failed and many after him will fail. If you aren't out with your men and not talking to them you will never know what's going on and you will never know what your troops need to make their jobs easier."
I remember reading a story where Chief Dodd allowed a patrol officer be involved in the redesign of the patrol car fleet. I was marveled at this gesture. Can you imagine how good that officer must feel about himself, the sense of pride and accomplishment cannot be replaced any monetary token.
The "job" is protecting and serving the community and Chief Dodd demonstrated very early his stance on crime. He came into office after years of ongoing gang violence that was not properly addressed. He started by adding 10 additional officers to the Crime Suppression Unit, which is responsible for addressing criminal street gang violence. I have been told that he has since added 10 more officers to the unit to continue their measures against the ongoing violence in the city. According to the CPD annual reports for 2011 and 2012 the unit has been responsible for over 2,200 arrests. Chief Dodd has brought about great partnership with federal agencies as well as other agencies such as the board or probation of parole in an effort to continue his stance on crime. Recently the labeled 32 "worst of the worst" we're indicted from a multi year drug investigation from various federal organizations and the Chattanooga Police Department.
Chief Dodd has been adding to the department as a whole. He has seen several academy graduations that have allowed more officers on the street giving better service to the community. These officers have been equipped with the latest technology in an effort to increase efficiency on how services are rendered. At the current time there is an academy in session set to graduate in the upcoming months.
Not all partnerships have been so positive as seen with a relationship that has been marked with turmoil with Sheriff Jim Hammond. A letter dated Oct. 8, 2012 was sent to Sheriff Hammond declining CPD involvement in fundraising and raising good points about staying out of the political realm and remaining neutral amongst all. He ended the letter calling to mind that there are plenty of criminal issues that require our full attention. This letter showed the full integrity of Chief Dodd and what he saw important in his position as police chief. When it comes to integrity Chief Dodd showed that he also shown a commitment of protecting the community from unsuitable officers as well. Chief Dodd brought about an investigation against two officers, Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley after viewing a video of where excessive force was used against Adam Tatum. Chief Dodd didn't try to sweep it under the rug, he didn't try to downplay the severity of the situation. He had them fired and has tirelessly tried to keep them from getting their job back.
As a citizen I am personally sad to see Chief Dodd go. I hope that the next chief can learn some lessons from how Chief Dodd kept a department motivated and their morale high. The key ingredient to that is being involved with all officers from all ranks. Continue to bridge the gap between the admin and the boots on the ground. Continue to also bridge the gap with police and the community as they are just as important in your support system. From a grateful citizen thank you for all your years of service and time as a leader in this community .
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A few months ago, I was eating lunch at Nickis with my wife, son, and youngest grandson. Next to us in the large corner booth was Chief Dodd, along with four or five of his senior staff. They were discussing whatever any group of senior employees of 20-30 years talk about, I guess, couldn't hear, wasn't listening, but my grandson was very curious, as any four-year-old might be.
As we were waiting for our order Logan was on his knees, peering over Chief Dodds' shoulder.
There are several ways a man of his position might have reacted to this; try to ignore, or give the adults an irritated response, who knows. But what he did was to turn, speak kindly to the child, ask him a question or two, and them reach in his shirt pocket for a small gold colored replica of a CPD badge, about an inch long. The fact he was carrying such a thing indicates this wasn't the first time he had done this.
Perhaps years from now that little boy might still remember that small act of kindness by that policeman. I don't know the chief, but I appreciate that small act of kindness. Thanks for you service, chief.
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I don't know Chief Dodd, however, from reading the two letters above from Mr. Bryce and Mr. Hill, it seems clear that the chief has the mark of a true leader. Just because you are the person in charge of an organization does not automatically confer the mantle of leadership. Based on what I have seen of local government, Chattanooga has had a dearth of real leaders in recent years. When Mr. Bryce points to the chief's ability to engage the lower ranks and show his commitment to their issues and to solicit input from patrolmen regarding issues important to their ability to carry out their assignments, it shows me that Chief Dodd clearly understands what true leadership is all about. Mr. Hill's letter indicates that the chief can engage with those that he serves equally well.
Real leaders inspire, innovate, and rely on trust whereas garden variety managers administer, maintain the status quo, and rely on control. I hope Mayor Berke finds someone with Chief Dodd's leadership skills as his successor.