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CHATTANOOGA POLICE DEPARTMENT TRANSFERS

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Officers who requested transfers:

' John Patterson
' Randall Bissell
' Rodney Proffit
' Investigator Kenneth Blue
' Kelly Downs
' Derek Roncin
' Christopher Sims
' Investigator Cornelius Gaines
' Marc Saint-Louis
' Gary Aaron Williams
' Sgt. Rusty Morrison

 

Eleven of the 12 permanent members of the Chattanooga Police Department's Street Crimes Response Team requested transfers out of the unit during a 10-day span that ended Wednesday, records show.

On the official paperwork, the officers list personal reasons, schedules and career aspirations as their reasons for transfer, but sources say the mass exodus is actually the result of a toxic environment between the team and Chief Fred Fletcher's administration — a unified protest against the way the unit was operating.

The team is a key part of the Violence Reduction Initiative and handles many of the day-to-day logistics of the strategy. Street Crimes documents gang members and sets up the initiative's signature "call-ins," meetings between police and gang members, Chief of Staff David Roddy said.

In the past year, the mission and purpose of Street Crimes has gone through several iteration, sources say, and that shift was part of what prompted the officers to leave.

"They no longer felt Street Crimes was where they needed to be," Roddy said. "They felt it is not an effective match for their strengths and wishes."

Initially created as the "Crime Suppression Unit" in 2007, the team's central purpose was to attack crime trends — clearing unserved warrants, picking up offenders on drug charges and traffic offenses and generally focusing on enforcement.

That purpose has shifted since Fletcher took office. He reorganized the unit and changed its name to "Street Crimes Response Team" in 2014. He mandated that the unit's officers wear regular uniforms instead of khakis and has pushed neighborhood policing — a focus on solving problems rather than making arrests.

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Chattanooga Police Department Street Crimes Response Team Investigators Cornelius Gaines, left, and Marc Saint Louis talk with Jerry Moore, seen in handcuffs after being arrested for allegedly selling crack cocaine to an undercover officer on Doris Street in this April 1, 2015, file photo.

"It's kind of an entire department shift," Roddy said. "Street Crimes felt it more, because from the point they were in their infancy, they were seen as primarily an enforcement arm. And as they transitioned — we can't just attack things with an enforcement approach. It has to be a problem-solving approach."

Fletcher had knee surgery Wednesday and was unavailable to comment Friday. Since he and Mayor Andy Berke rolled out the Violence Reduction Initiative in March 2014 with the goal of reducing gang-related gun violence, Fletcher has consistently defended the strategy, which has seen mixed results.

So far this year, the number of gang-related shootings and gun homicides is flat with the last two years: 68 incidents as of Oct. 12, 2013, 60 by that day in 2014 and 62 this year.

There have been 24 homicides so far this year. There were 27 in all of 2014 and 19 in 2013. The number of gang-related homicides was not immediately available Friday.

In the early stages, the Street Crimes team led the initiative, said Lt. Tammy Cook, who supervises the team. As the strategy has aged, the department has broadened implementation of the Violence Reduction Initiative to all officers, Cook and Roddy said.

"VRI is not 11 people," Roddy said. "It is 480 cops using focused deterrence and VRI is an arm, a method of focused deterrence."

This is the second major change in the unit since the initiative started. In December 2014 its point man, Lt. Todd Royval, transferred out of the unit and then resigned from the department.

Cook said the team still takes the lead on Violence Reduction Initiative enforcement actions because the unit has more flexibility than patrol.

She added that several mandatory personnel transfers were in the works, but the entire unit requested transfers before that could happen. One sergeant, Danny Jones, decided to stay.

The officers leaving will transfer to patrol around the end of October, Roddy said, and the department is currently looking for 11 new team members.

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

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