Concerned Citizens For Justice Hits Emmor, Cooley Settlement

Friday, January 17, 2014

The group Concerned Citizens for Justice hit a settlement by the city with former officers Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley.

Under the settlement, the officers involved in the incident with halfway house inmate Adam Tatum will no longer be city officers, and were given "neutral recommendations" on future employment elsewhere.

2in;">The group said, "Emmer and Cooley not walking the streets of our city as Chattanooga Police Department officers is a people's victory that wouldn't have been possible without pressure from the community and CCJ, but we have a long way to go when the grand jury, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, [and a Tennessee Administrative Law Judge] all see the video that we all saw and not see the actions of Emmer and Cooley as criminal. The fact that the city was forced into a position of negotiation and settlement further proves that the beating of Adam Tatum was not a case of two bad apples, but an example of policies and culture that allows police brutality to continue in our city.

"Although we celebrate this measure of justice, it is now our responsibility to insure that it never happens again. We know that this case has seen this much success because it was recorded and know that there are even more instances of abuse that have occurred without the smallest measures of justice. We need a Civilian Review Board that can hold police accountable and more commitment from the city government and police department to have a dynamic change of culture that ends police brutality once and for all in Chattanooga. We still have much more work to do.

"With the disclosure of additional details of the City's settlement, we find it necessary to further respond. In an earlier statement, we criticized the city of Chattanooga for ignoring the community's demand to appeal Administrative Judge Summers' order to rehire Emmer and Cooley in favor of backroom negotiations. Though we certainly celebrate the fact that Emmer and Cooley won't be back on Chattanooga's streets, we are angered that the settlement included $15,000 each above the back pay and pension contributions ordered by a judge—they shouldn't be paid anything.

"More importantly though, we are infuriated, saddened, and frightened by the fact that the City of Chattanooga's willingness to compromise with brutal bullies with badges left Emmer and Cooley with their “peace officers” standards and training certification intact and a requirement for the city to only disclose their dates of employment to potential employers. In other words, Emmer and Cooley are legally empowered to go terrorize some other community's streets. If they do get another job and someone else is beaten or, God forbid, killed, the City of Chattanooga will share some of that blood on its hands. The beating of Adam Tatum was not the first time either of these officers faced complaints of excessive force. And, it won't be the first time that officers with excessive force complaints have been hired by other agencies because of a lack of disclosure:

"In one highly publicized case at the West Palm Beach Police Department, two officers had been hired despite serious problems at their previous departments. One of the officers had worked for six different police departments in Tennessee and Georgia in five years. He had worked in a police department in Chattanooga, Tennessee before joining the West Palm Beach department. The officer resigned from the Chattanooga department after two complaints of brutality were made against him and a drug problem with marijuana became known while he was serving on the undercover drug squad. He promised the police commissioner of Chattanooga that he would not apply to work in Tennessee, Alabama or Georgia but would go to South Florida. That information was not disclosed to the West Palm Beach Police Department. The other officer, while working for the Riviera Beach, Florida Police Department, arrested a suspect, beat him and blinded him in one eye. The department settled a lawsuit brought by the victim of the beating for $80,000. The Riviera Beach Department was asked by West Palm Beach, “Are you aware of any derogatory information concerning this applicant?” The Riviera Beach Department responded that it was not aware of any such information, even though the beating incident had occurred only five months earlier. The mayor of West Palm Beach later stated that neither of the officers would have been hired had the city been told about the previous misconduct.

"We can only hope that any potential employers will do a quick google search and find the brutal video of the beating of Adam Tatum (trigger warning: graphic violence) and the media coverage and think twice about hiring them. The issue of police brutality in this city and this country and the work of CCJ are far from over."

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