Edwin McPherson's chief bid helped by rule change

Chattanooga Police Captain Edwin McPherson puts his hand on the head of Dominique Collins as he waves to people while arriving Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, at a stop the violence community picnic at East Lake Courts in Chattanooga, Tenn. The picnic offered food, music, and a chance for kids to tour police squad cars and fire engines.
photo Chattanooga Police Captain Edwin McPherson comments on what took place at the Interstate 75 accident that took the lives of six people, including two children.

Assistant Chattanooga police chief Edwin McPherson has benefited from a modification made to the job qualifications for the police department's top position.

A little over a week ago, Mayor Andy Berke's office chose to drop the requirement of a college degree for applicants vying to be Chattanooga's next police chief after Fred Fletcher retires July 6.

McPherson's personnel file shows he graduated from Ooltewah High School in 1983. In an email Saturday, McPherson said that while he does not have a bachelor's degree, he is a graduate of the FBI Academy and the Southeast Command and Leadership Academy.

His co-workers who have applied for the position, David Roddy, the chief of staff, and Danna Vaughn, assistant chief of the special operations bureau, both have four-year college degrees.

In the email, McPherson wrote, "I believe on-the-job/life experience, effective leadership, and ability to successfully serve are sufficient for becoming Chattanooga's next Police Chief. I also believe an investment in formal education is beneficial not only to the degree holder, but also to society overall. That is why I'm currently in the process of attaining my Bachelor's degree."

"I have committed a quarter century of my life to selflessly serve and protect the citizens of Chattanooga. I look forward to the opportunity to serve as their next police chief."

Berke's office chose to modify the application requirements at the behest of the five-person search committee Berke organized to find a replacement for Fletcher who announced in April his intent to retire at the end of his contract.

Originally, applicants were asked to submit their materials by June 9, but after the search committee met that day, they requested the qualifications be expanded to open the position to individuals who have years of experience, but no college degree.

The minimum qualifications section online now says, "Fourteen (14) years of any combination of relevant education, training or experience sufficient to perform the essential duties of the job will be considered."

The position was reposted with a new deadline of 11:30 a.m. June 20. Of the 49 people who applied, 15 submitted materials after June 9. McPherson submitted his application at 8:57 a.m. on June 9.

It was unclear Friday afternoon how many applicants do not have a four-year college degree.

The committee had included Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Christie Sell, who "previously recused herself from the committee to ensure judicial appropriateness and to avoid a risk of conflict or appearance of impropriety," according to an email from Marissa Bell, a spokeswoman for Berke's office.

The remaining five committee members are former U.S. Attorney Bill Killian; former District Attorney Bill Cox; Olga de Klein, former chairwoman of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association's safety committee; pastor Ternae Jordan of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, and TechTown CEO Chris Ramsey.

It will review and vet the 49 applicants and recommend no more than three finalists to Berke, whose choice must be ratified by the Chattanooga City Council.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.