Mayor Andy Berke said Friday he has signed a pledge aimed at "protecting residents and law enforcement alike."
The protests that have erupted across the country since the killing of George Floyd are searing reminders of the difficult relationships that exist between people of color and police officers. These challenges did not come into existence in the last week, but they have now come to light for many people. While I join with many Americans grieving the death of Mr. Floyd, I’m hopeful that our nation can confront these painful problems with an eye towards lasting solutions.
Today, I joined mayors from across the United States in signing the 4-part pledge from the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to review the City of Chattanooga’s use-of-force policies and make any reforms that may be needed to protect residents and local law enforcement alike. Also, I’m glad to report that virtually all of the “8 Can’t Wait” policies called for by Campaign Zero are already being implemented by the Chattanooga Police Department.
We know that progress moves at the speed of trust. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to public safety. We have had a lot of success in reducing violent crime in Chattanooga over the last several years, and I know that it is because our police department works at building strong relationships at the neighborhood level. In fact, the Chattanooga Police Department has been responsible for a lot of terrific reforms and community projects in the last several years:
Supported the establishment of the city’s first Police Advisory and Review Committee to provide additional independent oversight from the community.
Instituted the use and outfitting of Body-Worn Cameras to create additional transparency and accountability.
Expanded the Citizens Police Academy, a nine-week program that gives community members a better understanding of the Chattanooga Police Department’s units and operations as well as insight about what law enforcement entails.
Established “Each One Reach One,” a financial incentive offered to community members who successfully recruit a minority candidate to the CPD Police Academy.
Developed and launched the Community Immersion program, which puts candidates specific marginalized and minority communities for long-term experiential learning and relationship-building work.
Created the School Liaison Program, where officers are assigned to elementary schools in Chattanooga to cultivate and develop relationships with students, teachers, and administrators.
Holds regular “Coffee With a Cop” sessions and “Front Porch Lineups”, opportunities for community members and police to work together for safer neighborhoods and meet one another in a home, business, or other friendly environment.
Partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga on “Bigs in Blue”, a national youth mentoring program that has proven to reduce crime and youth violence.
Yet I know that even all of this good work is taking place against the backdrop of this country’s very painful history with race and policing. At some point in their lives, far too many black men and women have been pulled over unnecessarily, targeted unfairly, and worried for their safety. There is more we must do in Chattanooga, across our state, and throughout our country.
Our goal is to build and maintain a department that serves all Chattanoogans with respect and professionalism. With your help, we can make it happen.
Chattanooga can’t -- and won’t -- wait.
Take care and stay safe.