New chief in town: Fletcher takes oath, sets goals for Chattanooga

New chief in town: Fletcher takes oath, sets goals for Chattanooga

June 13th, 2014 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Chattanooga City Court Judge Russell Bean delivers the oath of office to new Chattanooga police chief Fred Fletcher on Thursday afternoon at the Memorial Auditorium's Community Theater. Standing with them is Paige Fletcher, the new chief's wife, while Austin, Tex., police chief Art Acevedo is seen at right.

Chattanooga City Court Judge Russell Bean delivers the...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Five facts you didn't know about Chief Fred Fletcher

1) His favorite color is blue. (Obviously.)

2) He met his wife when he was 15 years old.

3) His dog, Copper Sherman Fletcher, earned his name for being as big as a tank. After Fletcher adopted him, Copper lost 39 pounds by running with Fletcher.

4) His dad graduated from University of Tennessee of Knoxville

5) He rides a motorcycle.

Source: Fred Fletcher

Apparently, Austin doesn't want to let Fred Fletcher go.

Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo flew out to Chattanooga to speak moments before Fletcher was sworn in as Chattanooga's new police chief Thursday.

"I was about to make him assistant chief [in Austin]," Acevedo told the crowd, adding ruefully, "maybe if I had, he wouldn't have left."

The door is always open, he told Fletcher. You can come back anytime.

"Austin will always be your home," Acevedo said.

Behind his former boss' back, Fletcher silently shook his head. Nope. A ripple of laughter spread through the audience.

Fletcher is Chattanooga's now.

And the new police chief is ready to jump into action.

In an interview with the Times Free Press, he reiterated his commitment to building neighborhood policing and laid out two additional primary goals he hopes to bring to the police department in coming years: improving public safety by reducing violent crime and turning the Chattanooga Police Department into a place where people from all over the country want to come and work.

Building neighborhood-based policing will start with easy changes, Fletcher said. Officers can keep the windows on patrol cars rolled down so community members can talk to them, or just hop out of the car to talk. He'll require officers to give victims updates on open investigations and cases, no matter what.

"I don't ever want a victim or victim's family to feel like they have not heard from us," he said.

All the changes he hopes to make -- reducing violent crime, improving public safety -- start with listening.

"What neighborhood policing means, to me, is listening to people, finding out what are problems for them, and then working together to solve problems," he said. "What I'd like you to see in the coming months and years is officers who really, really, really work at solving problems. Sometimes that will mean making arrests, sometimes it will be putting up a fence or taking down a fence."

He hopes to pioneer a new type of policing in Chattanooga, balancing data with people.

"Intelligence-led, neighborhood-based and outcome-focused policing," he said. "We want to use data to be efficient and effective, but we don't want to do what many places do, and focus on data to the exclusion of people."

As he did in Austin, Fletcher, 46, will push the department to experiment with new programs and initiatives, and he hopes that the emphasis on cutting-edge policing techniques will pull top-quality officers and cadets to Chattanooga.

That's one of the reasons Mayor Andy Berke hired him.

"This is not a department in turmoil," Berke said. "It's one that has a number of talented people who are looking for guidance about bringing the best and most current tactics to Chattanooga. Chief Fletcher can bring some of those best practices to Chattanooga."

And while Fletcher is a bit anxious about leaving his 30-year history, friends and family in Austin, he's also ready to embrace Chattanooga.

"I wasn't looking for a job," he said. "This job and I found each other."

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