published Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Fred Fletcher confirmed; 'We are depending on you,' council tells new Chattanooga police chief

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    Fred Fletcher, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's pick for police chief, shakes the hand of Councilwoman Carol Berz, District 6, Tuesday in the City Council room. Fletcher, formerly a police commander in Austin, Texas, was confirmed unanimously.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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There was never any doubt.

Fred Fletcher has so won over the Chattanooga community that there was little for the City Council to do Tuesday night but approve his hiring.

The veteran commander from the Austin, Texas, police department will begin his new job in late June.

The council unanimously confirmed Fletcher, praised him for what they called exemplary police work and heaped their expectations on the 46-year-old veteran.

"We are depending on you," said Councilman Moses Freeman. "There may need to be a culture shift to create a community relationship with the police department and the kind of trust that we need. We know we want you to solve all the crimes as it occurs."

"We're putting all that pressure on you ... you'll do the best you can."

Most of the city officials met with Fletcher one-on-one after Mayor Andy Berke offered him the job April 24. But Councilman Yusuf Hakeem said he reserved his interview with Fletcher for the public hearing on Tuesday.

Hakeem wanted to know what Fletcher thought of an independent citizen-led review panel for the police department as well as his idea of community policing and asked how he plans to restore trust with the community.

Fletcher answered that he will lead by example and hold his officers accountable to treat the community with respect.

"One is leading by example and articulating what your expectations are," he said. Yet based on his observations in Chattanooga, he said: "We're well on the way down that road of improving trust."

Fletcher will sign a contract with the city before his start date with a salary of $142,500, but officials said the documentation hadn't been finalized Tuesday night.

Chattanooga community leaders who met with Fletcher said they were impressed with his performance commanding the East Austin sector and with his community initiatives.

From 2012 to 2013, violent crime in the region that Fletcher oversaw decreased by 14 percent, and property crime declined by 9 percent.

Berke Chief of Staff Travis McDonough said the city, led by a search firm, picked through the best candidates across the country and found that Fletcher was at the top of the list. He said that affirmation was clear when several officers picked Fletcher up from the airport and after two hours of talking with the commander decided he was the right choice.

McDonough said the consensus was clear: "This is the guy, you've found the right one."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

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about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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