BY THE NUMBERS
From July 31, 2009 — July 31, 2010
White: 2,769; 88 percent of total
Black: 361; 11 percent of total
Hispanic: 8; 0.2 percent of total
White: 880; 88.5 percent of total
Black: 95; 9.5 percent of total
Hispanic: 10; 1 percent of total
White: 642; 72 percent of total
Black: 147; 16.5 percent of total
Hispanic: 96; 11 percent of total
Source: Collegedale Chief of Police Brian Hickman
Marta Monzon’s son was driving through Little Debbie Parkway in Collegedale on July 4, when an officer on a motorcycle followed him for about a mile before stopping him for having an expired tag.
And that was not the first time he had been stopped on his way to Ooltewah.
Mrs. Monzon, who lives in Collegedale, spoke at the City Commission meeting on Monday about how many Hispanic residents feel some officers might be racially profiling. Mrs. Monzon is Cuban, while her sons are part Puerto Rican and part Cuban.
“They even interrogated my 15-year-old son who had nothing to do with anything,” she told the mayor and commissioners.
Collegedale Police Chief Brian Hickman said racial profiling is against the law and his officers don’t do it, but if anyone has a problem, they should contact the police department to file a complaint.
Luis Valtierra, who was not present at the meeting but let Mrs. Monzon share his story, said he has been stopped a couple of times, including once when he was allegedly told by the officer he knew he was Mexican and didn’t have a driver’s license.
Mr. Valtierra, who doesn’t have a driver’s license, said he hadn’t violated any traffic laws before the officer stopped him at a red light and since then he has decided to relocate to Ooltewah.
“I do feel they are stopping anyone who looks Mexican,” he said.
Out of 3,148 citations given from July 31, 2009 through July 31, 2010, 88 percent were to whites, 11 percent were to blacks and only .2 percent to Hispanics, according to information provided by Chief Hickman.
During the same period of time, 888 arrests were made. Out of those, 72 percent were of whites, 16.5 percent of blacks and 11 percent of Hispanics.
About 82 percent of the population in Collegedale is white, close to 5 percent is black and 8 percent is Hispanic, according to the website city-data.com.
Others say there are people in the Hispanic community who have been stopped and asked about their legal status, but Chief Hickman said his officers can’t ask anyone about their status, unless they get arrested.
“If someone is arrested we’re required to ask for their nationality (in case) they want to call their consulate, we have to put on their fingerprint card what nationality they are,” he said. “It’s simple things we ask any citizen and noncitizen.”
Collegedale Mayor John Turner told Mrs. Monzon he has lived in Collegedale for almost 30 years and has never seen a police officer “being anything but courteous.”
“You need to file a police complaint if you truly believe it’s happening,” he said, “we will investigate it and if we made a mistake, we will correct it.”
At the end of the meeting Mrs. Monzon said she felt the commissioners and the police chief and lieutenant listened and are willing to make things right if something wrong is being done.
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...