On Monday, July 10, it was announced that a Mayor Berke-appointed search committee had presented Berke with three finalists for the position of Chattanooga’s next Police Chief. Among those three finalists is Captain Todd Chamberlain of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The importation of any officer from the LAPD should raise concern considering the notorious history of the department-from the brutal beating of Rodney King in 1990 to the discovery in 2015 that more than 80 patrol cars had antennas removed and that officers were routinely tampering with video and monitoring systems, particularly when entering inner city communities.
Yet, despite all of the rhetoric around “community policing” that has come from the Berke Administration and the CPD under Fletcher’s leadership, the Berke-appointed search committee has chosen a finalist from the LAPD and either failed to do a simple google search or ignored the fact that Captain Todd Chamberlain was implicated in a widely reported-on racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former Black LAPD Officer Earl Wright.
Wright experienced racial harassment and retaliation from white officers in the Central Station where Chamberlain, also white, was command staff. In the lawsuit, which resulted in a 12-0 decision and a $1.2 million damage award to Wright, Chamberlain was accused of condoning a racist culture by ignoring requests to file complaints against the officers who engaged in racist behavior. He was even himself directly accused of stating at a public community relations meeting that he “did not want officers hiding out at the 7-Eleven drinking watermelon slurppies”- invoking the stereotype of African-Americans and watermelons. One of the incidents that Chamberlain failed to discipline an officer for was placing a piece of fried chicken and a slice of watermelon in a cake that was supposed to honor Wright’s 20th Anniversary of service to the LAPD.
In 2013, the world saw a grim reminder of the LAPD’s racist culture, when former Officer Christopher Dorner killed several people. In a manifesto detailing his grievances with the LAPD, one of the main themes was the condoning of a racist culture by command staff and retaliation against officers for reporting it.
CCJ’s alarm about the choice of Chamberlain as a finalist should not be seen as an endorsement of either of the other two candidates, who have issues of their own. Finalist and acting Chief David Roddy has on many occasions been a vocal advocate of increased police funding for surveillance through purchase of body cameras, surveillance cameras, and other technology as well as militarization of the police through purchase of assault weapons and body armor. And though certain segments of the community have voiced support for Captain Edwin McPherson, his record troubles us as well. Just a few years ago, McPherson was charged with untruthfulness by Internal Affairs after intervening in an investigation involving a robbery turned murder which detectives suspected involved his niece. Phone records showed that McPherson was on the phone with his niece before, during, and after the robbery turned homicide. McPherson showed up on scene at an unrelated investigation and ordered a subordinate not to collect a phone connected to the robbery/homicide case.
Our alarm about the selection of Todd Chamberlain, in particular, should rather be seen as another significant argument in favor of community control through the establishment of a real and effective civilian oversight board with subpoena, investigatory, and disciplinary power and significant representation from the communities who experience the most policing; and through community control of the city budget via participatory budgeting and divestment from the huge police budget in favor of investment in solutions that address the root causes of crime and violence. Because of community pressure to address the root causes, candidate after candidate in the last city elections stated “we can’t police our way out of these issues,” yet city officials continue making the most significant investments in policing and surveillance. The bottom line is that we need community control and we ask that the Chattanooga City Council work with us to establish it now while a transition in leadership of the police department presents itself. We further ask them to seriously consider the implementation of participatory budgeting and will be presenting them with information and case studies from other cities in a special presentation at their July 25 meeting.
Concerned Citizens for Justice
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Leave it to Jared Story, member of the "hash-tagavist" group CCJ, a group who is a very public proponent of abolishing both the police department and military to tell half the stories of our homegrown chief candidates.
In my best Paul Harvey voice....and now for the Rest of the Story....
Lets start with Edwin McPherson. The most polarizing candidate because it looks as if the "rules" were changed for him. In fact, the requirement for a bachelors degree was taken out of the majority of city positions. The man with 25 years on the streets of this city has way more practical application of policing than any four or eight year degree would give you. In the situation referenced, he was cleared after a review of all the evidence put forth. Evidence that unless you FOIA it, you are not privy to.
Moving to David Roddy and the complaint is he advocated for surveillance (body cams), body armor and "assault rifles". Really? So now body cams are bad. Got it. Surveillance is bad, like the three gang members caught on surveillance shooting another and a quality case made by the cops. Body armor and rifles for those men and women who run into situations where they are being shot at by rifles. You do realize their current body armor is no match for a .223 / 5.56 round right? As for taking a pistol to a rifle fight....find a Marine today and ask him your odds of winning that battle.
Jared and the CCJ have no desire to work with the PD. When they "protested" downtown last year, they were met by horrible officers offering them water on a hot day. Their response...we don't want your water. The cops blocked Market Street so they wouldn't get hit, they didn't appreciate that. In fact, they don't have a desire to work with anyone but the 10 members they have. Jared if you want to really help, instead of bashing the cops and looking to abolish them, maybe you should see about joining and changing from within. I'm sure either of the chief candidates would love to have you see what the real world looks like for once.
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Mr. Storey of CCJ should be thanked rather than attacked for doing what this committee could have just as well done. What any average Joe or Josephine citizen could do. I personally carried out a small random search from the names on the list I found from a local news article. It didn't take quite 10 minutes to discover something troubling in the backgrounds of some of the names from the list or the agencies they work or once worked. There was a name from Chicago where the story of the infamous blacksite and cops accused of torturing citizens they arrested over the years. Police departments that had been under federal watch and oversight off and on for years.
As someone who's been on the receiving end of police harassment, threatened for speaking up and out, once even with the threat of letting lose their canine on me, yes we citizens who've witnessed, have family members affected and have personally been on the receiving end of the darker, more troubling side of police and policing tactics deserve better Chattanooga claims it wants to promote better relationships between citizens and police, then the city should get serious about it. Anything less is just giving lip service before the breakdown comes again and matters regress back to their same old habits.
A pretense of unity and coming together doesn't solve anything. Neither do claims and pretense of diversity, or showcasing diverse communities as a front. Just because a community is racially diverse doesn't guarantee the community is racially tolerant of differences. Having lived in such a community for decades, born in one over half a century ago, so-called diverseness in communities sometimes has its own dark side taking place behind the scenes and is often a front and cover for racial intolerance. There's sometimes a limit to who, what types and what class are acceptable. Anything over that limit and the campaign begins to run the undesirable, unacceptable off, either using the police or creating policies and ordinances to keep some out, and be rid of the remainder.
Mr. Storey and CCJ thank you. You simply took it upon yourself to do what this committee and anyone could have, should have done on their own.