A ban by the mayor’s office of a blogger suggests that the Chattanooga police department is, indeed, a service to executive political interests and an executive branch organ of social control.
An annoyed Mayor Andy Berke ordered the police department to block this writer as a first-person witness of his Aug. 4 public event naming David Roddy chief of police.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 92.7 FM
The journalist and talk show host calls himself “the blogger with the biggest pen” on account of his WordPress blog and his three Sean Hannity and CBS-affiliated all-talk radio stations. He worked 24 years as a copy editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press and before that as a consumer columnist at the Chattanooga Times, sharing an office with the late Bill Casteel.
The liberal Democrat mayor was to have none of it. This reporter, sporting a colorful bow tie, arrived at the lobby of the police services center on Amnicola highway a few minutes before the event. Spokesman Rob Simmons, an officer wearing a weapon and body armor, stood in his way — forbade his entry because “you are not considered a member of the media, for departmental purposes.”
‘Police will handle him if he shows up’
A directive by police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal shrieks: “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS A MAN NAMED DAVID TULIS ALLOWED BEYOND THE FRONT LOBBY!! Police will handle him if he shows up. No matter what he says, he is NOT media.”
“Media will remain in the front lobby as a group until the mayor arrives and media will remain in the front lobby as a group until the mayor arrives and [is] ready. We will hold a press conference pavilion out back. The mayor and his staff will park in the back lot and come in one of the back doors. I’m still working out the details with Stacy Richardson on where the invited guests will come in and when.”
The event was held not in front of the police headquarters, a public place and open to all. Holding it out back let the department lock the door against a media critic who has been ignored as a matter of policy for the past four years.
Mr. Berke was cautious enough to avoid putting any comments into writing. An open records request under a statute that helps government insulate itself from the press reveals nothing about Mr. Berke’s private policy against this writer and a First Amendment-protected multimedia platform.
Scorned reporter lauds Berke
Despite his being zeroed out, this writer watched all the proceedings online an hour later and published a report highly favorable of Mr. Berke.
His report highlighted what appears to be a change of heart in Mr. Berke’s oversight of the department — a change of emphasis away from blood-and-guts law enforcement toward a more humane and less deadly enforcer of state statute.
No reports at competing press outlets identified the most important part of the mayor’s talk.
That was Mr. Berke’s account of how officer Jeffrey Abbott used de-escalation techniques and Christian mercy to avoid slaying a citizen who otherwise might have ended up riddled with police .40-caliber slugs from officers who were merely defending themselves. Mr. Abbott talked into submission a man who was drunk and shooting a pistol amid a violent psychological episode.
Since the Ferguson, Mo., riots August 2014, policing philosophy has come under increasing pressure to humanize and revitalize itself via four elements of reform — the use of time, space, cover and de-escalation — by which officers no longer are under the old pressure to shoot, tase, beat, kick, strike, abuse or injure members of the citizenry who deserve neither capital nor corporal punishment.