Coonrod calls for dialogue on police use of force

Coonrod calls for dialogue on police use of force

July 10th, 2018 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

New city councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod is photographed in the Times Free Press studio on Friday, April 28, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod called for dialog with city police and said civil disobedience might be needed after two recent incidents in which officers pulled females from cars.

"We're getting lots of videos of police confronting and approaching African Americans. It's causing unrest in the community, and we don't want it to lead to real disturbance," Coonrod said Tuesday at the council's strategic planning session. She said the "culture of the police department in traffic stops is aggressive and unnecessary" and added, "we need to talk about some new approaches."

Chattanooga Police Department Chief David Roddy, who was present, said he would be happy to talk about policies on traffic stops and use of force. He added, "Let's do specifics, individual stops or officers, that will help us understand perceptions and beliefs and fears rather than a broad statement in general."

Coonrod was referring to two social media videos showing Chattanooga officers removing females from cars. WRCB-Channel 3 reported on both incidents.

The first, in late June, showed part of an incident in which police pulled a 14-year-old from the driver's seat after she ignored their calls to shut off the vehicle and get out.

The girl's mother was outraged on social media that her daughter was handcuffed for resisting arrest.

In an incident over the weekend, police removed another woman from a vehicle in cuffs; she slid to the ground before officers walked her to a police car and sat her inside. The woman's daughter posted the whole arrest video and accused officers of throwing her to the ground and treating her roughly so she couldn't breathe.

Police said officers followed policy in both cases. In the case of the 14-year-old, they released the entire video from the officer's body cam showing the context of the incident. In the second, they said the woman was arrested because her car tag belonged on another vehicle; the registration was expired; she had a suspended license and no insurance; and she refused to sign the citation.

Not signing the ticket is a jailable offense, Deputy Chief Eric Tucker said at Tuesday night's council meeting after a group of local residents and Coonrod again called for more controls on police behavior.

When Coonrod asked Tucker from the council dais to explain when officers can use force, Tucker said that a number of factors are involved.

Coonrod referred to her own June 2017 traffic stop, when the vehicle she was riding in was pulled over for an expired registration. On the side of the road she repeatedly told officers she was a councilwoman and demanded to see then-chief Fred Fletcher. She later apologized for her behavior.

But on Tuesday, Coonrod said the situation is "getting out of hand."

She said she is "for civil disobedience" but doesn't think Chattanooga is ready for it.


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