The appointment of a former Chattanooga Police Department sergeant to the city's new Police Advisory and Review Committee came under scrutiny again Tuesday by both council members and members of the public.
When District 1 Commissioner Chip Henderson appointed Rick Mincy, a retired Chattanooga police sergeant who left the department after more than two decades of service in 2014, to the citizen oversight committee last week, District 5 Councilman Russell Gilbert and District 9 Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod voted against the appointment, opposing the idea that any present or former Chattanooga police officer would be on the board.
During Tuesday afternoon's Strategic Planning Meeting, Coonrod first called for the council to allow citizens to vote in a referendum to remove the board from under the council, making it more independent, adding that she was working with the city attorney to draft such legislation.
Then she called for the council to prevent former police from being on the board in the future.
"And I'm really concerned about having an ex-officer serving on the board. I know it's our councilman's choice and it was an oversight on our part that we didn't pick it up while we were combing through," Coonrod said. "I think [having a former Chattanooga officer] defeats the purpose of creating the board."
While Coonrod was not met with much immediate council support, members of the public echoed her concerns at the 6 p.m. voting meeting.
Sylvester Harris, who was recently appointed to Chattanooga's police advisory board by District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd, was critical of Mincy's appointment during the public comment section of the meeting.
"I want to give [Mincy] all the praise he needs. He retired and was probably a good officer it's nothing personal toward him," Harris said, adding that he was not against police or the council. "But the problem I'm having with that nomination is once you get your pension and go to police balls it's hard to be unbiased once you're affiliated with a program you once served in."
Activist Marie Mott followed Harris, pointing to a recent subpoena for a former Chattanooga police officer allegedly involved in a rape allegation cover up and an incident with a questionable cavity search by Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies.
"Not only do you guys need to think over the decisions you have made ... but also seeing the realistic outcomes. Has life for African-American people improved?" she asked the council members, referencing their involvement in recent police oversight issues. "Have we been liberated by any of the decision making or pace making that you have done?"
While Henderson was absent from all of Tuesday's council meetings, he said last week that the appointment was made "thoughtfully."
"I tried to make a really thoughtful decision and I understand where people are coming from, but I believe [Mincy] will be able to use his expertise to really identify when there have been policing issues," Henderson said after the appointment. "I got some input from community members and they thought he would be a good person to nominate. I wanted to make sure we have someone who will take it seriously and show up and who is invested in the issue."
Two significant rezoning matters that drew opposition last week also were passed by the council on Tuesday.
The most contentious, the rezoning of a property on Clark Road in Northeast Chattanooga, was approved unanimously despite a more-than-100-person petition against the proposed 234-unit apartment development and convenience store.
Another rezoning matter in St. Elmo changed three properties on Tennessee Avenue from C-2 commercial to UGC commercial, to allow for a more strictly commercial development.
The rezoning was approved unanimously by present council members, with conditions requiring that an existing right-of-way between two of the parcels remain open for pedestrian use and prohibiting certain uses, including adult-oriented establishments, self-storage facilities and auto-oriented uses.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.