published Thursday, July 31st, 2014

New leaders take a fresh look at Chattanooga Police Department

Chattanooga Police Assistant Chief and Chief of Staff David Roddy, standing, discusses personnel assignments in the Command Room Wednesday with assistant chiefs, clockwise from his left, Tracy Arnold, Danna Vaughn and Eric Tucker.
Chattanooga Police Assistant Chief and Chief of Staff David Roddy, standing, discusses personnel assignments in the Command Room Wednesday with assistant chiefs, clockwise from his left, Tracy Arnold, Danna Vaughn and Eric Tucker.
Photo by Tim Barber.

NEW ASSISTANT CHIEFS

David Roddy, also chief of staff

Age: 43

Years on the force: 19

Favorite Chattanooga spot: Anywhere with his family

Tracy Arnold

Age: 55

Years on the force: 27

Favorite Chattanooga spot: Any tennis court

Danna Vaughn

Age: 48

Years on the force: 19

Favorite Chattanooga spot: Big River Grille

Eric Tucker

Age: 48

Years on the force: 28

Favorite Chattanooga spot: Congo on Main Street

Source: Assistant chiefs

There’s one sure-fire way to make the new leaders at the Chattanooga Police Department laugh, and it’s not a knock-knock joke.

It’s a phrase: “Because we’ve always done it that way.”

“That adage is usually met with laughter at this point,” said Assistant Chief and Chief of Staff David Roddy.

He’s the new second-in-command at the police department, under the new chief, Fred Fletcher, and supervisor for four assistant chiefs — three of whom are brand-new.

The influx of new blood gives the department a chance to take a careful look at policies, organization and culture, to keep what works and dump what doesn’t. Already, the new assistant chiefs are beginning to identify priorities, including addressing immediate staffing shortages, reviewing and revamping the internal selection process and building community relationships.

“Even if something has been routine for 30 or 40 years, we’re still looking for objective evidence as to why we should continue it,” Roddy said.

Fletcher is already vetting people to sit on a new committee aimed at revamping the department’s internal selection process, which includes recruiting, training and promoting. Department employees named that process as their top complaint in a May study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, calling the process a “good old boy” network that’s preferential to certain people.

The committee should be up and running within weeks, Roddy said, and will focus exclusively on reforming that process.

“We need to make sure the process we use is fair and efficient,” he said.

In patrol, Assistant Chief Eric Tucker sees an early challenge in the low number of officers on patrol. He said he is working to figure out how to most efficiently deploy the officers he does have.

“We’re looking at the call loads in the city, peak call times, the needs in various zones and how to distribute that manpower,” he said.

The department now has about 486 sworn officers, although about 20 percent of all sworn staff are eligible or close to being eligible for retirement. But 32 new police officers just graduated from the police academy and will be added to patrol by early August, Tucker added, which will help lighten the load.

Efficiency is also a priority in the special operations division, now headed by Assistant Chief Danna Vaughn. She’s in charge of operations like SWAT, DUI, the bomb squad, training and traffic enforcement. All of her divisions are equally important, she said, but she is working now to make traffic enforcement more effective.

“It’s interesting that everyone is up in arms over all the shootings and killings with weapons, but we’ve had twice as many people killed in car crashes and things of that nature,” Vaughn said. “So I think we need some priority placed on traffic enforcement.”

Over in investigations, new Assistant Chief Tracy Arnold is focused on helping his detectives nurture community relationships while they investigate violent crimes, property crimes and narcotics.

“If they’re on a crime scene dealing with things, you’re going to get a crowd out there wondering what’s going on,” Arnold said. “We’re going to have to work to at some point ease their anxiety and give them a little explanation of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it that way.”

At the center of everything is a commitment to get out of the office, Roddy said.

“Day-to-day, my hope is that most of us are not in this building,” he said at the police services center on Amnicola Highway. “We need to make sure we’re out there at all levels of this department engaging members and the community.

“If we reach a point where we are spending the majority of our day inside the police department, we are losing that connection.”

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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