Citizens Group, NAACP Hit Decision Putting Officers In Tatum Incident Back On The Force

Friday, September 27, 2013
CCJ officials hold press conference at City Hall
CCJ officials hold press conference at City Hall
- photo by Brent McDonald (See video on NewsChannel 9)

A local citizen group said it is "outraged" that an administrative law judge ruled that two former city police officers involved in the altercation with Adam Tatum at a halfway house can go back on the police force.

Ash-Lee Henderson of Concerned Citizens for Justice (CCJ) said, "Residents of Chattanooga/Hamilton County and the surrounding region, and people across the country are outraged that the firing of former Officers Emmer and Cooley for the brutal beating of Adam Tatum has been overturned by Administrative Judge Kim Summers.

"When the administrative hearing was concluded in July, Police Chief Dodd vowed to appeal this type of decision and the city attorneys said they would appeal also if 'it made sense.' Mayor Berke has publicly stated his disappointment and is meeting with city attorneys to discuss options."

Ms. Henderson said, “While I appreciate the mayor and Chief Dodd taking strong public stances against the behavior of Emmer and Cooley, there is only one option the community is interested in and that is the immediate appeal of this order and any and all additional steps necessary to make sure these two officers are not placed back on our streets.

The idea of putting either of these former officers back onto our streets after perpetrating such egregious acts of brutality is terrifying."

She said CCJ member and Westside resident Janelle Jackson "was overwhelmed on Thursday with phone calls, texts, and visits from folks who are not only angry, but who are fearful for their own lives and the lives of their friends and families, particularly those who have acted publicly against police brutality."

Ms. Jackson said,  “Victims of police brutality in this city feel that a license has just been granted to Emmer and Cooley and the CPD to continue abusing community members with impunity.”

The citizens group "is making a call for everyone who is able to come to the weekly City Council meeting, 1000 Lindsay St., this coming Tuesday at 6 p.m. to make our voices heard. We have to act quickly before this order becomes final on Oct. 9."

Ms. Henderson said, "Should the city decide not to appeal this order or if the order is upheld on appeal, CCJ is committed to further action to ensure Emmer and Cooley are not placed back on our streets."

CCJ member Jared Story stated, “Over one million people across this country have viewed the video of Emmer and Cooley’s brutal beating of Adam Tatum on various websites and social media and an online petition created on Thursday afternoon had more than 200 signatures by Friday morning. The city of Chattanooga should look at the recent examples of mobilizations in Jena, La., and Sanford, Fla., and consider the implications of a national campaign and mobilization, in addition to local action, should Emmer and Cooley be placed back on the streets of Chattanooga.”

Officials of the local chapter of the NAACP said, "We are equally saddened and disturbed by what we view as a narrow and limited ruling on behalf of  administrative Judge Summers. Both the legal rationale and logic of such a verdict, in the face of this type of gross misconduct and excessive use of force, acts clearly visible to all who witnessed official video of the incident, sets a dangerous precedent that this type of force is part of acceptable training and public interaction procedures, and if left unchecked calls into question the safety and general welfare if the general public interacts with the officers in question. Let there be no mistake, words  such as harassment, brutality, excessive use of force, and intimidation can be used to define their actions during this detainment and arrest, and in many regards, the senseless beating of this suspect is Chattanooga's Fruitvale Station. We must likewise safeguard the civil and constitutional rights of citizens as derived from the 14th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and  Section 1983 of U.S. C. 42. For these reasons, in conjunction with the prior dismissal of these officers from the force, this ruling should be immediately appealed to higher authorities.

"This is the very basis of why the NAACP on a local and national level has called for broad and sweeping reforms throughout all sectors of the Criminal Justice and legal system. We call on all members of the community to contact their elected representatives to express the outrage of this ruling.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,  referring to justice stated that, 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' The balances of justice must begin to tilt to include the faces of justice, and when we do this we will achieve true harmony and equilibrium upon the great scales of justice. For the reasons aforementioned, we vehemently oppose and condemn this judicial ruling and call for the ruling to be appealed to higher authorities. Actions like this undermine the credibility of the Judicial system and damages the reputation of the Chattanooga Police Force."

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