Staff photo by Olivia Ross / New Police Chief Celeste Murphy is congratulated by after her confirmation at City Hall on March 15, 2022.

This story was updated Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at 9:45 p.m. with more information.

The Chattanooga City Council voted Tuesday to confirm the selection of Celeste Murphy to lead the city's police department.

Council members unanimously approved the nomination by Mayor Tim Kelly. Murphy will replace former Chief David Roddy, who stepped down last summer.

Councilwoman Marvene Noel of Orchard Knob made the motion to approve Murphy, who is deputy chief of the Atlanta Police Department. Councilwoman Carol Berz of Brainerd Hills seconded the motion and welcomed Murphy to the city.

"I'm at a loss for words," Murphy said after the unanimous approval. "This is an extremely proud moment for me. I thank the people who are here, the city and the police department who have welcomed me, I am ready to serve you all 150%."

Councilman Isiah Hester of Washington Hills told the Times Free Press he thinks the city did a good job in approving the new chief.

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City Council approves Murphy as new Chattanooga police chief

"She was well qualified, she was very engaged with the community in the Atlanta area, and I think she's breaking a glass ceiling," Hester said. "Being the first female chief in the city of Chattanooga, I think is a growing trend in other cities in the country."

Berz agreed the milestone was significant.

"Obviously, she's an outstanding woman, but I'm more looking at her credentials, and they're also outstanding, and I'm looking forward to her doing just a terrific job," Berz said.

Other council members agreed:

— Raquetta Dotley of East Lake: "She understands the community she's coming into. She's coming from a larger department. The level of community involvement is going to help reduce crime. This is going to help move our city in a positive direction. I think she's going to work well with constituents, but also the department itself."

— Noel: "She is the right fit. She has the expertise. Her resume was amazing. She is deliberate about the direction she wants to go. She's here for the officers and citizens. Anytime you have a person that can balance that scale of justice there, you have a win-win situation. She has the empathy, the sympathy, the compassion, the knowledge, the will and the drive to do what needs to be done."

— Council chair Chip Henderson of Lookout Valley: "She's got the real heart and commitment to address the needs of our youth. In developing the youth, so that they don't revert to a life of crime. You've got to build a strong foundation, and many of these kids are at risk anyway. Many of them are food-deprived, and some of them have learning disabilities and some of them are behind at school simply because they don't have the support network at home that they need. And I think Chief Murphy recognizes that, and she's willing to reach out and build coalitions to address the needs of our youth at a young age to try to curb and address crime in the future."

Murphy's selection comes after a nearly six-month nationwide search in which the mayor invited his constituents to chime in on what qualities and priorities the next police chief should have.

Some of those qualities included in the job description were:

— Demonstrated competencies in effective leadership and building strong relationships within the community and among rank and file officers, and the ability to inspire confidence as a representative of the police department and the city.

— A fundamental commitment to community accountability and the principles of community policing.

— Strong interpersonal and communication skills, and a demonstrated capacity to be visible within the department and out in the community.

Murphy beat out Chattanooga's assistant chief, Glenn Scruggs, as well as Troy Price from the Vancouver, Washington, police department and Paul Noel from New Orleans's department.

During her tenure in Atlanta, Murphy worked on several special projects involving a juvenile reintegration program for formerly incarcerated youths. She also worked with the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia to help victims of domestic violence throughout the state.

At a news conference held immediately after the City Council meeting, Murphy said she was proud of being selected for the position and looks forward to working in Chattanooga. Noting that while she is proud of being the first Black woman selected to be chief, she appreciates people recognizing that she worked hard for the position.

"Who wouldn't want to be the first in anything, whether the woman gender, race, ethnicity, any of those categories? But more than anything, I'm so proud that people recognize what, the accomplishments that it took me to get here," Murphy said. "So there's no question that this was the job that I worked hard for to get, it did not come by easily, but I proved myself that I was capable to be able to have this position and have the trust of the people to allow me this opportunity."

Murphy said that while she doesn't quite have a concrete 90-day plan, her promise to get to know her department and what resources she will have available to her and begin to engage with the community, stands, and she will formulate one once all parties are included in the process.

"What matters to me is that everyone here feels that my plan incorporates their ideas as well," Murphy said, adding that she's looking forward to her tenure with the Chattanooga police.

"I'm most excited, because one of the reasons why I chose [Chattanooga] was the fact that the department gets the direction of where policing should go, and that's a start," Murphy said.

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Murphy will continue with the Atlanta Police Department, where she has worked for the past 26 years, until the end of March.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

Contact Logan Hullinger at or 814-319-5158. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.



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