published Monday, April 11th, 2011

Three ways to honor Sgt. Chapin

COLUMN

By David Cook

Our city is becoming a crime scene.

And it’s not even summertime yet.

“Whenever we have more outdoor activity, there is an increase in problems that happen,” said Sgt. Jerri Weary, police spokeswoman.

And as the violence increases — which it will — our city government continues to nickel-and-dime the one resource most needed in Chattanooga right now:

The police who protect the public.

Here are three ways to correct this.

First, the city and county governments should pass an ordinance that exempts all police officers from paying property taxes every year. We gave away the farm for Volkswagen, offering the largest tax-break incentive — estimated at $577 million — ever given to an automotive corporation.

Do the same thing for police officers. Exempting property taxes for city and county officers will attract the best and brightest to our city, which is the exact same principle the city follows to attract businesses.

After all, how many businesses will continue to relocate here as the streets turn more and more violent?

Second, give all police officers their cars back.

Near the end of last year, the mayor and City Council ended a longstanding policy of allowing police officers to drive their patrol cars home. Looking to cut costs, the government instituted a rate-per-mile policy, which would result in most officers leaving their patrol cars in one of two official parking lots as they go to and from work.

This is the way we treat mall cops, not law enforcement officers. Under this absurd policy, I’ve heard of police officers having to drive by a crime scene in their personal cars to reach the patrol car parking lot, where they then speed back to the same crime scene they just passed.

Isolating all patrol cars in two centralized locations is small-minded, making them vulnerable to flooding, disaster or vandalism, and the two-lot scenario creates the one situation any security adviser will warn against: all your resources in one area. Even more, the lots will cost about $20,000 a year to maintain, in fencing, security cameras and more.

The city budget is estimated at $182 million this year, and the savings with such a rate-per-mile policy barely makes a dent.

Yet the greater blow here is to morale.

The average — not starting — salary of a police officer in the city is $38,977.72.

The current combined salary of the mayor ($146,607), his chief of staff ($119,709), his deputy ($92,881) and media relations ($60,000) is $419,197.

With such mathematics, four police officers barely exceed the salary of the mayor, yet I would bet my last dollar that when bullets fly in Coolidge Park or elsewhere, the mayor is not called to come defend the lives of the public.

Yet the mayor and council decided to remove patrol cars — citing budget concerns — while in December adding a $4,800 salary increase for six other top-level city employees in Chattanooga, each of whom already earns more than $100,000.

The third solution: We need a mayor and council that remember in a democracy, they function as servants and representatives of the people, not top-hat bosses whose feet don’t touch the streets they claim to govern.

Is that possible for this mayor and council?

The police are not perfect, and our city has issues with abuses of authority and power. Yet the larger issue here is one of fairness and justice.

Every time I talk with police officers in this city, it is as if I am given access to another version of Chattanooga — the exact opposite of the one promoted by tourism brochures — where children are prostituted by their parents for drugs, 29-year-olds are grandmothers and meth addicts pick their own scabs to get high.

Like gatekeepers, these police are possessors of images and stories that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

And each time I listen to these stories, I’m reminded that if you were to create a society from scratch, it would seem that the police — along with teachers and doctors — would be some of your most valued citizens.

“This is the sort of day we hope will never come, but it does,” said Mayor Littlefield in the hours following the death of Sgt. Tim Chapin. “We appreciate his sacrifice.”

Prove it.

David Cook can be reached at davidcook@blumail.org.

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allGODSchildren said...

The average — not starting — salary of a police officer in the city is $38,977.72


1.Actually, police salaries are like military salaries. They're based on level of education. An officer with a high school education or GED might start out at lower pay, but someone with at least two years of college will start out at a higher pay.

  1. Actually, studies have shown more police on the streets doesn't necessarily equate to citizen or police safety. It has shown that with more police operating in any one given area at any time, often leads to more complaints of police abuse and brutality, which leads to a decline and desensitization in citizens respect towards officers. Which often leads to tragedies for both officers and civilian citizens.
April 11, 2011 at 11:22 a.m.
Salsa said...

The current mayor is attempting to destroy the Chattanooga Police Department in order to make it easier to attain his goal of consolidation.

April 11, 2011 at 11:45 a.m.
Thetruthexposed said...

David Cook is correct on the pay issue and all of his other aforementioned statements. Chattanooga Police Officers average pay is below $39,000.00 per year, this is for a 25 year officer.

I have no idea where allGODSchildren received his information, but he is wrong. There are officers at the Chattanooga Police Department with Masters Degrees, they are making the same as a person without a college degree.

Besides that, college does not make a well rounded officer. A well rounded officer is one with good morals, integrity, professionalism, bravery and courage. These are traits that a person can not learn sitting behind a desk in college playing grab-ass, these are traits picked up through a good up-bringing and good moral values.

The best police officer comes from a lower to middle income family with life experience, you must know how the poverty stricken live in order to understand their problems. The officer must realize just because a person is poor and poverished it does not make them a bad person.

The officer should be a God fearing man or woman, they should know the hand of God will reach down and crack them across the back of the head if they get out of line.

The should be one that has served his or her country in the military and shows true patriotism. They should be willing to protect and serve the old, the young, the citizens and the non-citizens of this great country, the gay, the straight, the rich and the poor, the black, the white and everything in between without bias.

This is what it takes to be a good officer and believe me, there are very few who actually fit into this category. Therefore, the city should take care of the officers they have, after all, these are not your average everyday citizen.

April 11, 2011 at 1:12 p.m.
allGODSchildren said...

@Thetruthexposed

I'd think there would be other mitigating factors coming into play for an officer with a Master's degree to remain in a low salary range. If the officer choose to stay in patrol? How many substantiated complaints the officer may have received over the years? How often has the officer had to be reprimanded for conduct unbecoming? There's a host of other factors that come into play. An officer with a Master's degree and with 25 years of experience, there's usually something else going on.

April 11, 2011 at 2:34 p.m.
CPDsupport said...

To AllGODS-Where do you get off saying that just because an officer is highly educated that they have to have bad conduct as an officer and "a host of other factors that come into play"? Maybe they had high expectations and morals instilled into them as they were growing up and were told that an education would benefit them. Too bad it doesn't give them a upgrade in pay, but they are still educated men and women. Also, If they were ever hurt in the line of duty and unable to patrol, that education they have may help them get a different job so they could continue to support their family. So before you go and continue to bad mouth the police officers that protect our city, you need to think twice because one day you may be staring down the barrel of a gun and you are going to wish you have a brother hood in blue coming to your rescue, and they would come to your rescue because that is what they choose to do every day they put that badge on, with a college degree or without one. CPD-Courage Professionalism Duty.

April 11, 2011 at 8:25 p.m.
CPDsupport said...

To David Cook-Thank you for saying what is really on all the CPD supporters minds.

April 11, 2011 at 8:27 p.m.
momandwife said...

AMEN! Great article. I know, as a former teacher, there are many people working without proper pay. Not just police officers. The difference is, these officers are always in danger, running in while we all get to run away. I am so proud of our police officers. Thank you CPD.

Ron Littlefield is the worst thing for our city right now. Im not sure what he has against our police department, but he needs to start supporting the department or get out of office. He gives himself a raise, but cuts the officers' salary. How? There are no raises, he takes their cars away, and took away overtime pay. How selfish of him. But he does spend millions on putting statues downtown...hmmm...

"allGodschildren" you're an idiot. sorry, but i can't think of a better way to put it. you are uninformed, speak without any truth, are rude, ungrateful, and insensitive. You're the kind of person that doesn't deserve to have someone else (like a poice officer) risk their life for you.

April 11, 2011 at 11:04 p.m.
biofish said...

allGODSchildren

You really discredit yourself when you spew data which you totally and undeniably made up. Do you really think there are no police officers reading this forum?. please. Chattanooga Police pay is in no way determined by their level of education. Where do you get this crap?

Let me make this simple. Stop lying to make yourself look like you know something. It makes you look like the exact opposite. Just because you have the internet does not make you an expert.

April 11, 2011 at 11:28 p.m.
illusionist777 said...

allGODSchildren: Are you kidding me??? More police on the street = police brutality??? Are you crazy?? Talk to Rudy Guiliani (a REAL mayor) about that subject. I think he would have quite a different view. His administration cleaned up Times Square by inundating it with police officers and made it a family friendly place. You obviously don't know what you're talking about. We need more police in Chattanooga. And they need to be paid what they're worth which is a heck of a lot more than they're making now. We need an administration that rewards their sacrifice and service, rather than punishes them by removing their benefits. What's the point of having all these new industries and growth if our town isn't a safe place to live anymore?

April 11, 2011 at 11:40 p.m.
mella_yella said...

@illusionist777 said... allGODSchildren: Are you kidding me??? More police on the street = police brutality??? Are you crazy?? Talk to Rudy Guiliani


Are you talking about the same NYPD where millions upon millions have been paid out due to lawsuits primarily because of police brutality?

April 12, 2011 at 3:07 p.m.
illusionist777 said...

I'm talking about the place where the crime rate dropped from 65% to 8%. Figure it out.

April 12, 2011 at 9:35 p.m.
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