Will Mayor Berke rule — or overrule — violent department?

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This chart on Page 17 of the latest CAFR — the comprehensive annual financial report — for city government shows clearly that police serve Mayor Andy Berke.

Noah McLemore stands with a broom in the entrance of Footworks on Highway 58, where he was seized and harassed by fearful and anxious police officers serving Mayor Andy Berke. (Photo David Tulis)

At what point does Mayor Andy Berke overrule a department’s pernicious practices?

Will it take a police execution of a city resident for the mayor to notice what is happening in his police department?

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

The question is only fair because Mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat, seems to be oblivious to the chart that describes the authority relationships among city officials and departments.

The chart as published in the latest comprehensive annual financial report shows indeed that the police department is obedience and reports to the mayor. The police department is an executive branch agency

A fresh report about a routine encounter with it citizen and resident of Chattanooga brings this question to the front. Does a small incidents such as the Noah McLemore search and seizure Aug. 3 in front of his shoe shop enough to bring about a reform of policing practice? Or does it take the death of yet another American who has done nothing worthy of summary capital punishment?

Armed — and dangerous — officer

A city officer, a female, slithered along the front of his retail building as he stood in the doorway smoking a cigarette. Her pistol was drawn, and though he says he was terrified, Mr. McLemore kept his cool, saying later his pretended motions to photograph her with his wireless phone camera saved his life. His treatment was, perhaps, by policy, but was a wrong and a tort.

Rather than pull up as a potential customer and visitor, to make small talk, the officer approached as if she were about to be shot herself, and then she demanded a “Terry patdown” of Mr. McLemore, who was lolling at his door in an undershirt. She began the encounter not by discussion, chatting and queries about business and customers. She began at a high level of escalation, with lethal force already in hand. She came onto his property — with a wail of sirens for backup from three other cars — ready to be slain, and ready to kill first.

City cop draws gun on shoe store owner, pats him down

Mr. McLemore’s eyes twice dripped tears as he choked up telling of the terrifying encounter. The cop lies about the encounter by saying Mr. McLemore had been hostile.

By all appearances, Mayor Berke does not view police activity as part of his charge and authority. And yes, legally, his agency serves his branch and he is the head of it. The reminder of that fact comes in the naming of his police chief, August 2017, in which Mr. Berke described the heroic, self-denying act of officer Jeffrey Abbott.

Cops are human, too

Mr. Abbott in times past would simply have been slain. “So officer Abbott went out there and found out from the wife that there was — that her husband was intoxicated,” Mr. Berke recounted in a speech. “He had been firing off guns. And officer Abbott *** asked the sergeant in charge if he could talk to the person because he knew him from church. At his own risk, he talked to the person, talked him down, de-escalated it, took control of the weapons — and there were multiple weapons found there,” the event ending with nary a police pistol discharged.

Mr. Roddy has been chief more than a year, and a string of incidents of police violence and activity outside statutory authority mark his administration. Mr. Berke rejects the limits on police authority through the transportation statute, at Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55. But he also pretends nothing can be done at other points to humanize the police and make officers less a terror, more of a help — like firefighters and EMTs.

So low has police reputation fallen in Chattanooga that the goal of this year’s citizens police academy, begun Sept. 13 at the police and fire training center on Amnicola, is to make the people realize that police officers are human.

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