Chattanooga group of 50 rallies to support action against city police violence

Chattanooga group of 50 rallies to support action against city police violence

March 10th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Ash-Lee Henderson speaks at a meeting by the Concerned Citizens for Justice Saturday at the Eastdale United Methodist Church. The meeting was held to discuss community relationships with police in the wake of the videotaped beating of Adam Tatum by Chattanooga police officers.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

WHOM TO CALL

Concerned Citizens for Justice has set up a website to document police behavior at www.chattanoogacopwatch.com.

To contact internal affairs at Chattanooga Police Department, call 423-425-7300 or email them at CPDInternalAffairs@mail.Chattanooga.gov.

A group of about 50 people searched Saturday for solutions to end what they say is police brutality in Chattanooga.

Concerned Citizens for Justice called a community meeting after release of a video showing two Chattanooga police officers savagely beating a federal halfway house inmate at the Salvation Army in June. The two officers who beat Adam Tatum were fired but are asking an administrative law judge to order they get their jobs back. It's possible federal authorities may press charges against them.

"We know the best solutions are right here in this room," said Ash-Lee Henderson, a Concerned Citizens for Justice organizer, who stood at the front of Eastdale Village Community United Methodist Church, 1403 Tunnel Blvd.

Among the ideas suggested were amending rules for an existing civilian review board for the police department, educating residents about their rights and offering more legal training for police officers. The group encouraged residents to document encounters with police using cellphones and to get badge numbers.

In attendance were Tatum's family members, City Councilman-elect Moses Freeman and Yusuf Hakeem, candidate in the yet-undecided District 9 council race.

Adam Tatum sent a letter from Silverdale Correctional Facility that was read at the meeting.

"It's not just about [me] it's about all of us collectively and our civil rights; the rule of law which has been earned by our forebearers [sic] such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr." he wrote. "In our fragile democracy, when the people who represent the law are allowed to do what they please and avoid prosecution, it creates a threat and a danger to all of us."

Tatum thanked the community for its outpouring of support as well as Mayor Ron Littlefield and Police Chief Bobby Dodd for action in the case.

Last year, Chattanooga police answered 220,914 calls for service and made 12,568 adult arrests. The department investigated 69 complaints about officers. Out of those, 36 were generated by citizens and 33 were generated by the department. There were a total of 28 use-of-force complaints.

Contacted for comment after the rally, Dodd responded, "We absolutely do not condone any type of police brutality."

"We encourage the citizens to come forward. Contact my office. Contact internal affairs if they have been subjected to something like this or if they see something improper. We investigate every complaint. We will give them the respect and proper attention that we do with any other investigation. I can only investigate it if they report it."

The group's next meeting is tentatively set at 3 p.m. April 6 at the same location.