Note: This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. on June 1 to correct details of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives funding.
The Chattanooga Police Department is making staffing changes as a way to better respond to shootings in the city, according to a statement.
Last week, the department announced it's reallocating five existing, budgeted positions to enhance its response to gun crime in order to "better serve community members who are most directly affected by gun violence," the statement said.
There have been a number of shootings over the last three weeks in Chattanooga, including one at Coolidge Park after which the city arrested a suspect who was first believed to be a victim in the incident.
The recent shootings have also led city leaders including Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod to hold news conferences pleading for city leaders, the police department, community leaders and parents to help in the effort to stop the violence. Coonrod was joined last week by other leaders in the Black community including Councilman Anthony Byrd, County Commissioner Warren Mackey, Pastor Jeffrey Wilson from New United Baptist Church and many others.
Elisa Myzal, communications coordinator for the department, said in an email Friday that Mayor Tim Kelly's inauguration did not have an effect on the department's most recent staffing changes. Myzal said last year's protests had no effect on the changes, either.
The new effort will start on July 2. The department is moving five officers from the Gang Unit to the Gun Team, which then will have nine investigators, two sergeants and one civilian technician. The technician is funded by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The department's Gun Team was created in June 2018 with a mission to focus on evidence collected at scenes where gun violence occurs and to use specialized ballistics technology to link crime guns to people and people to crimes. The idea is to build stronger cases against those committing the gun violence in Chattanooga, particularly the criminals who are seen as multiple offenders.
Officers respond to every shots-fired call in the city. If evidence is located, investigators follow up on the incident. In cases where a person is shot, the Gun Team plays "a vital role in the investigation and building a case against the perpetrators," the department said.
Capt. John Chambers said many of these types of cases have been successfully prosecuted at the federal level, which hopefully brings much-needed justice and closure to victims and their families.
"Increasing the number of dedicated officers to the Gun Team in order to address and respond even more efficiently to gun violence in Chattanooga is needed now," Chambers said in a statement.
Police Chief David Roddy said this is another step in continuing to be "a progressive department committed to intelligence-led and data-driven policing."
"We are continuously looking at ways to address and adapt response to criminal activity with the ultimate goal to better serve the members of this community," Roddy said. "Expanding the Gun Team without seeking an increase in funding just makes sense."
Members of the Gang Unit will be reallocated to fill other vacancies in the department. Other investigative and administrative responsibilities that would have been handled by the Gang Unit now will be handled by the department's Intelligence Unit and focused deterrence coordinator.
CPD and its Gun Team were recently awarded a $700,000 federal grant to supplement existing equipment and purchase "innovative, objective technological methods of capturing evidence and data" connected to gun and violent crime.
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.