published Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Panel meets on Chattanooga Police Department promotions

  • photo
    Officer Patrick Fugitt, center right, and dozens of Chattanooga police officers listen as Mayor Andy Berke signs a new police pay plan at the Chattanooga Police Services Center in this July 2014 file photo.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

RESTART WORKING GROUP MEMBERS

• Chris Ramsey, BlueCross BlueShield

• Everlena Holmes, community representative

• Stacy Johnson, La Paz

• Gladys Pineda-Loher, Chattanooga State

• James Mapp, NAACP

• Warren Logan Jr., Urban League

• Shea Jefferson, city of Chattanooga Human Resources

• James McKissic, Office of Multicultural Affairs

Chattanooga Police Department members:

• Mike Williams, retired

• Sgt. Derrick Stewart

• Sgt. Danny Jones

• Officer Michael Newton

• Assistant Chief Danna Vaughn

• Officer Rob Simmons

• Officer Sean O'Brien

• Officer Iran Meadows

• Kyle Miller

• Lt. Bakari Welles

• Captain Kim Noorbergen

• Officer Moreland Wilson

Source: Chattanooga Police Department

The Chattanooga Police Department took the first step this week toward completely revamping its recruiting, promotion and internal transfer policies.

A 20-member task force created by Chief Fred Fletcher to review the policies and come up with new methods met for the first time Tuesday. The group will turn in a final report to Fletcher by March 31, 2015, according to the department.

Police officers here long have complained that the department's processes for promotion -- especially for the ranks of lieutenant and captain -- were easily influenced by favoritism and a perceived "good old boy" network.

Department personnel even named the promotional process as their top concern in a months-long study of the department by the International Association of Chiefs of Police that was released in May.

Fletcher launched the group, called RESTART -- which loosely stands for recruit, engage, select, transfer, advance, retain, team -- to address those concerns. The task force includes business people, active and retired Chattanooga police officers and community members.

Task force member Sean O'Brien, Fraternal Order of Police Rock City Lodge 22 president, said his goal is to create an objective and consistent process. In the past, he said, who was and wasn't promoted often would leave him scratching his head.

"Anecdotally, when you look at where certain individuals ended up on the bottom of the list and you knew the education and training they had, you were left wondering what in the world happened," he said. "It had the appearance that bias may have occurred, either intentionally or unintentionally. It was very frustrating."

He said the atmosphere at the RESTART group's first meeting was optimistic.

"What I heard from everyone was a sense of excitement and an 'It's about time we're all able to sit down at a table and talk about this,'" O'Brien said.

Besides promotions, the chiefs association study also identified transfers and recruiting as weak spots for the department. The study noted that the diversity profile of the Chattanooga police does not reflect the citizens in the city -- only 56 percent of Chattanooga is white, while 78 percent of officers are white.

That's one factor that task force member Warren Logan, president of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, wants to focus on.

"I'd like to see a greater degree of diversity from the top to the bottom so that there is a greater representation within the department," he said.

He added that he's glad the department is taking a proactive approach.

"I'm glad [Fletcher] is proactive, because when you look at communities like Ferguson, [Mo.], there are tipping points," he said. "So it's good to be proactive because it's so easy to get off balance."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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