Mayor Andy Berke explains why he chose Fred Fletcher as new Chattanooga police chief

photo Fred Fletcher, right, of Austin, Texas, is Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's pick as police chief.

Mayor Andy Berke said he chose Fred Fletcher as the next police chief because of his energy, passion and experience reducing the drug trade and prostitution in one of the worst neighborhoods in Austin, Tx.

"That's the exact same principle we're trying to use behind the Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative," Berke said at a press conference this afternoon. "He had outstanding success out there."

At 11:45 today Berke said he offered Fletcher - a commander with the Austin (Texas) Police Department - the position during an interview in his office. He said he doesn't yet have a start date for Fletcher, but he will make $142,500 in salary.

Fletcher has been with the Austin department for 20 years and has served as director of cadet training, SWAT commander, internal affairs manager and patrol commander.

In Austin, Fletcher was in charge of more than 200 officers and he oversew a pioneer project to close the open-air drug market in East Austin, drastically reducing crime. The police work used in that initiative followed the policing principals from David Kennedy - a criminologist from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Kennedy is overseeing Chattanooga's initiative.

Fletcher said he brings his experience to Chattanooga and he's already seen the benefits of that type of police work.

"We have essentially eliminated open air drug trade [in Austin]," Fletcher said."But most importantly when I walk that community the people there feel safe."

Other police chief finalists in the search included Chief Gregory Thomas, of Aurora, Ill. and Chief Stephen Mylett, of Southlake, Texas. Chief Derrick Diggs from Toledo, Ohio, was recommended as a finalist, but he withdrew from the process.

See tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete details.