A great lassitude seems to afflict the residents of Chattanooga and keeps them from being angry about the abuse of noncriminal people, particularly women placed under arrest and either cuffed or raped.
That careless and casual demeanor among the citizens and voters of Chattanooga is reflected in their city council. Its members Tuesday hold a regular meeting gaveled to a close in 15 minutes.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
The only member of the public to speak in the open Forum part of the meeting is Chris Dahl, a county commission candidate who lists grievances regarding public housing alleges miscreancy by staff and director.
The furor of July 10 and July 17 meetings has subsided. Police department chiefs are breathing easy. No one complains tonight about policing. No one calls for reform. No one demands creation of a civilian oversight board or any restraint. Tonight not a single council member disturbs the decorum to make any kind of speech about city employees who wear blue uniforms and carry guns and speak to members of public with terms such as “m – – – – k – – – g” (as in the notorious “walking while black” arrest of Hanson Melvin in Hixson).
It’s great to be on city council and have such mercifully short meetings. Council members have private lives and businesses, and are glad when public duty gives them a break, especially after budget season.
The meeting tonight has business important enough: Shifting the operation of city court (the corporation’s judicial branch) from the charter to rule the city code — to better allow the council to slash payroll from two judges to one in 2022. Council handles summarily resolutions on surplus property, advertising a public hearing, a tech contract not to exceed F$199,718, another about a sign company’s assisting a temporary user of a right of way on North Market Street.
But what about important issues of public morality? The council has specific authority to protect the people and to abate nuisances, and the executive branch’s most expensive social engineering project — with an annual budget of more than F$70 million — appears to have become one.
City council — the power of interposition
The council has power “to make regulations to secure the general health of the inhabitants, and to prevent, abate and remove nuisances.” The charter has private nuisances in view, but public ones would appear even more obligatory, no less.
Since 1949 the city had authority to regulate “disorderly persons,” and these are assumed to be private parties. “Disorderly persons; breaches of the peace. To provide for the arrest, imprisonment and punishment of riotous and disorderly persons within the city, and for the punishment of all breaches of the peace, noise, disturbance or disorderly assemblies.” But city employees are subject to this rule too, no less.
When officers enforce the commercial statute of Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55 on a noncommercial private person in a car — Diana Watt in one ugly but routine arrest recorded by daughter Jayla Johnsonn on YouTube — we know that this law should be evoked upon the neck the mayor’s department, no less.
When we realize city council is charged broadly with maintaining and seeing to public peace, we look at the charter for authority — and here it is. “Acts, businesses, etc., detrimental to public health, safety, etc. [City has authority] [t]o define, prohibit, suppress, prevent and regulate all acts, practices, conduct, business, occupation, callings, trades, uses of property, and all other things whatsoever detrimental to the health, morals, comfort, safety, convenience or welfare of the inhabitants of the city, and to exercise general police powers under the provisions of this Act and the general law.” The first party to be subject to the city’s police power is the police department, no less.
And then, for sure, the rest of the people will be subject to that power. http://www.chattanooga.gov/city-council-files/CityCharter/Title%2002.pdf
Electrifying lethal jolt ahead?
Demetrus Coonrod and Darrin Ledford are absent Tuesday. But their absence is not the cause of the meeting’s having gone as smoothly and tranquilly as it does.
Even had all the members been present, little seems likely to have been in prospect by way of reform and repair, the bringing to bear a sense of justice and righteous indignation for law enforcement violence against law abiding and innocent people about which Chief David Roddy has not even a marketing-response concern.
The citizenry of southeast Tennessee, and the residents of Chattanooga, don’t seem to care.
And neither does the council seem to care.
Biggest reform tool: Double nickel revamp
Perhaps the biggest reform instrument actionable today would let the city pivot into a reform. That is transportation administrative notice.
The 20-page legal filing with the city makes an obvious point in its restatement of law and court cases. It directs the subject of the notice to a legal fact evident everywhere — even on the council agenda tonight in report of a city department.
The very existence of a transportation department in city government tells about this legal fact of transportation. That part of government deals with roads and use of roads by taxis and other vehicles for hire. This department, it goes without saying (almost), makes no pretense of having authority over private users of the road — people not involved in transportation.
Transportation is the profit-seeking extraordinary use of roads in business, subject to the transportation business lawbook of Title 55.
Transportation administrative notice goes to the heart of a continuing abuse of the statute for social management purposes. Nearby are arrest mugs of people in the county jail who offended Tennessee code annotated Title 55. They may be employees using the roads for hire. But they don’t look like business people. They’re probably private folk, salt-of-the-earth types whom sometimes may be connected with petty crime and the judicial-industrial complex in Hamilton County — targets of police social management and the state engineering of society and its stratification.
The abuse of the people happens most often when they move about at liberty in cars and trucks in private use. The city has received this notice, and is obligated to make reforms that would curb enforcement. Or it must make notice of its rebuttal.
Such a reform toward obeying the law would be unprecedented. One hundred percent of jurisdictions in Tennessee, every city and every county, enforces Title 55 according to custom and policy, but not according to the actual statute and most of the case law dealing with the transportation-travel distinction, and not according to U.S. Code Title 49, which controls all the usages and definitions in the state code.
Personally liable city employees
The individual deputy and police officer is personally liable for abuse and oppression of citizens if they use this statute against private users, especially when the private user make a proper objection to the rebuttable presumption by the officer that he is a commercial user.
It will not be more than two years before members of the Hamilton County Chattanooga bar realize that there is ground for litigation against officers, and even against the corporation itself for its violations of state and federal law, regardless of supreme court policy and local enforcement agency practices.
The men and women of Mayor Andy Berke’s police department are in legal Jeopardy if they enforce Title 55 outside its clear scope of authority. As I explained to city council, reform is accomplished by a safeguard new question for every traffic / transportation roadside stop.
“Ma’am [Sir], are you using this car in a for-profit or for-hire or commercial capacity?”
If the person under arrest says, “No, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the officer has no authority to proceed further to enforce any of the transportation provisions or rules of the road in the statue that apply to business users. If the person says, “Yes, I am engaged in a contract to carry this person from point A to point B,” or, “I am transporting this patient to Erlanger Medical Center,” then the officer has authority to demand that person’s driver license, proof of insurance and registration of car or truck has a motor vehicle.
The abuse of people such people Mrs. Watt originates in the misuse by law enforcement of this statue. Obedience to the statute and to federal law would end 50 percent or more of the abusive encounters to which people in Chattanooga object — at least one or two people object, anyways.
It is time for city council to get off its backside, and to regulate Mayor Berke’s department for the sake of the people’s “comfort, safety, convenience or welfare.”
The people of Chattanooga are sleeping.
Chattanooga city council is sleeping.
It will take a violent and deadly encounter to wake up people and stir their anger. It is time to move now, to pre-empt and prevent the killing of another American man, woman or child at the hands of state actors acting in personal and private capacity, outside the scope of authority, outside the bonds of human love and compassion.
Jailed as commercial operators and drivers
These mugshots are at Chattanoogan.com of people charged under the state transportation statute, with part of the charge being that they are involved in commercial use of the road, and thus subject to Title 55, with rules of the road violations constituting probable cause of criminal acts, and arrest, jailing, etc. Are these business people, or victims of a statute enforced beyond the scope and ultra vires?