Mayor Andy Berke is served in the executive branch of city government by the police department, accountable to him.

Mayor Andy Berke oversees the executive branch of Chattanooga government; the police department led by David Roddy is an executive branch agency, accountable to Mr. Berke in executing city (and state) policy.

Chattanooga city police chief David Roddy, meeting with reporters in the MSM conference room at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, expresses a desire for better relations with the public.

The Page 1 story of the meeting between members of the press and a phalanx of officers touches on Mr. Roddy’s goals as chief. Among them are enhanced surveillanced, targeted “policing” of young men said to be gang members and improved community relations.

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 92.7

But there’s one hitch that affects the last two police department goals of aggressively handling young men and better PR.

And that is the Miranda rule that requires members of the public to be notified of their constitutionally guaranteed rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 1966.

The rule established by the supreme court is a workaround to allow for the American police state through city governments and yet maintain some semblance of constitutionality. It requires that people under arrest be informed that they are under arrest and that they have a right to remain silent and a right to obtain advice of counsel before making any kind of statement or admission.

The requirement for this effective notification of arrest puts a damper on police encounters with the public, especially alongside of highways, boulevards, roads and streets of the city.

Blue-light trigger for Miranda

Perhaps the most common place of conflict and encounter with the state for most people is the traffic or transportation stop when city government enforces state law in Title 55 of the Tennessee code annotated.

In Tennessee, when the blue lights flash, you are under arrest, according to rulings from the state supreme court (State v. Garcia, State v. Raspberry).

Departmental policy requires Miranda rights be read immediately after arrest (OPS-42, “Arrest Procedures, p. 6. 13 pp). Miranda is ignored and not restated in other policy sections. See, for example, OPS-27 “Traffic Enforcement,” and OPS-37 “Motor Vehicle Stops.”

The requirement of a reading of Miranda rights is trouble for the officer, who would prefer for his convenience to have arrestees not know they are under arrest, and to incriminate themselves and others in a friendly conversation with the officer that the suspect thinks is voluntary. The longer the line between conversation and arrest is fuzzy, the easier the cop’s job and the more easily he can bring an arrest.

If it is the department’s desire to create an affinity between itself and the people, the Miranda rule if it were honestly enforced would push that goal backward.

Community policing theory

Departmental spokesman Rob Simmons did not reply to an email about the department’s adherence to Miranda. Marissa Bell at Mayor Berke’s office deflected an inquiry. “Your questions about are not related to mayoral policy but to police enforcement and federal law. Please direct your questions to the Chattanooga Police Department.”

Chief Roddy is trying to foster what Emmett Gienapp of the Times Free Press calls “community support” for his authority, a necessity his news story says came into view from a recent study of the department. “We asked ourselves how well we were dealing with the community, giving them what they needed on calls, how strong our relationships work and we thought we were doing a really good job with that. Some members of the community didn’t think so,” Mr. Roddy says. “That was probably one of the most impactful points of that survey.”

Berke cops reject constitutional rule to Mirandize all arrestees

Taking part in the Times Free Press interview is Eric Tucker, in charge of a neighbourhood policing bureau. People are more willing to step forward as witnesses and to cooperate with police, he says, to view police officers as allies, not as just another enemy in “the ’hood.” Community policing creates what’s fair to call identification.

“Relationships are really a key component of being a good cop,” Mr. Tucker says. “We try to build that bridge. We don’t want to be seen as an adversary. We want to facilitate dialogue. *** I think our officers have fallen in line with that. I think they realize that is what community policing is about is building those relationships and being able to communicate with those in the neighborhood.”

The nub of community policing

Community policing theory is a partial remedy to the problem created by policing itself as an arm of the nation-state. It tries to mask the effects of law enforcement as against the citizenry, to market law enforcement, to make enforcement appear favorable to society and prosperity, to humanize an officer whose job it is to prosecute in the name of the state infractions of its code. Community policing is at best a mild palliative, an easing of the pain for the patient, not a cure for the terror that policing and state brutality bring to many people — and certain classes of people — as a state policy.

Community policing tries to turn the familiar neighborhood officer into a friend, pal and confidante.

It avoids rotating officers to capitalize for the state warm relationships that inevitability arise among human beings, whatever their circumstances. An officer’s sources and contacts are usually not likely to face handcuffing, arrest, booking, jailing and the like. Community policing makes innocent people trust the officer and trust that he cares about their safety and their property, making them reliable informants for state purposes. He uses his discretion and inside knowledge of people’s lives and doings to bring them into his service, keeping the peace and being the state’s accuser.

The Miranda rule poisons that relationship whenever the officer intends to take someone into custody. Miranda ordains a clear line. It requires a delineation between the free person and the person who is being seized who must in an instant invoke, defend and protect his rights. It quickens the moment when a conversant with an officer realizes he is a “subject” and facing arrest.

A person may be ignorant of an officer’s intentions. But the existence of that line is always present in the the officer’s mind, even when he has no intention of arresting a person with whom he’s speaking. But the line always exists in police-citizen encounters. It exists because his mere presence, in uniform and armed, is the first step in the continuum of force, according to a departmental policy.

Miranda is the rule for police and it is understandable why the Chattanooga police department is evading the rule to try to avoid the growing negative implications of policing — and the negative implications it has for every mayor of every municipal corporation that runs a police department, whose chief is not accountable to voters.

Stale — but existential — threat to police per se

The existence of policing appears to have been thrown into question in 2001 in the city of Chattanooga v. Davis case which insists municipal corporations do not have punitive authority, but authority to fine only, and that only up to 50 dollars. It appears from this case and the earlier Chattanooga v. Myers case that the department and its very existence are open to legal challenge, according to a legal reform activist, Basil Marceaux of Soddy-Daisy, whose post-conviction appeals and other forms of legal resistance are tying the courts of appeal and Hamilton County circuit court benches into knots.

Mr. Marceaux, a repeated candidate for high state office, says the bar, the judiciary and police interests work in combination to ignore Davis and Myers and to maintain their income streams in a scheme so big no one can see it anymore.

‘All in this together’

These rumblings aside, police officials’ language describing relations with the public is glowing.

“Our community supports us and we support them back,” Chief Roddy says. “We are all together. I don’t know that a week has gone by in however many years that some segment of Chattanooga’s diverse community hasn’t shown up to some way express support of its police department. That’s not something that just happens. It’s something that we have to pay deliberate attention to to keep it healthy. *** While some communities may feel they need to do more, we just pledge to keep doing what we’re doing, which is never forgetting that we’re all in this together.”

This analysis works, perhaps, if Miranda continues to be kept off the table. But Miranda cannot be conveniently omitted from Chattanooga police department interactions with the public, particularly as its own rules under CALEA certification require it.

Miranda should be read at EVERY TRAFFIC STOP and EVERY ENCOUNTER in which the officer reasonably suspects either an infraction of an ordinance or a violation of a statute, every encounter in which he has a “reason” to impose state power against the individual. If city cops are going to enforce all Tennessee statute (in spite of Davis and Myers), they’d better do it under Miranda’s protections of that activity, for Miranda protects not just the citizenry, but the officer from abusing his office. “Although these warnings must be given only before interrogation takes place,” departmental policy says, “it is good practice to give them immediately after arrest, thereby making any offhand remarks or other voluntary comments by the offender admissible in court” [OPS-42 “Arrest Procedures,” italics added].

Miranda helps public relations, not hinders

Rejecting Miranda may seem to improve public relations for now, not scare women travelers and other innocents. Miranda’s being off the table takes the edge off of police law enforcement in otherwise nonserious and nonconfrontational stop-and-talk type arrests streetside or on the sidewalk.

If Miranda were honored, fewer people would have negative interactions with police. Why? Because officers would be more selective in how they throw their weight around. They would arrest many fewer people. If Miranda is ignored, police will continue to act easily with belligerence against members of the public and keep up their inflow of unhappy human beings into the county jail and into city and sessions courts. Keeping the status quo could fuel calls for reform in Chattanooga, which are not widespread.

Gangland-style activity by Chattanooga police officers will come to light in November 2018 in the civil trial to compensate Hixson resident Hanson Melvin for his abuse at the hands of fired officer David Campbell and a hidden collective of other policemen who harassed him after he returned home from jail one morning in 2016.

Melvin sues cop Campbell, city for ‘outrageous’ arrest

The legal system in Tennessee needs reform on several fronts.

The bail bond system that creates a debtors’ prison. Legal immunity for officers who are bailed out by taxpayers when an abused person sues a county or municipal government. The public defender plea-bargain mill that helps the state grind up its quota of low-income people. The denial of the right of appearance before a magistrate after an arrest before booking. High-handed abuse by judges statewide who ignore the rules of court. Abusive and ultra vires enforcement of the discriminatory transportation code upon private and noncommercial users of the road (free-traveling Hispanics, constitutionalists such as June Griffin, the undocumented poor). The Tennessee highwayman program styled  “civil asset forfeiture.”

The Tennessee justice system is oppressive and ungodly and at many points outside the constitution. Miranda obedience is one important area of reform, for the sake of the people and their prosperity. Miranda is a mere high court compromise with the clamor for a police state and police hegemony over public life. Still, it is an official reminder about the limits upon the officer, touching on the fundamental right not to be coerced into testifying against one’s self.

The ruling has its faults, but it represents an effort by the high court to protect the public from interrogation beatings and false confession.

And for cops in Chattanooga, it is the law.

Source: Emmett Gienapp, “New Chattanooga police Chief David Roddy outlines plans for department,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, Sept. 19, 2017.

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