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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy talks during a prayer service at Olivet Baptist Church on June 1, 2020. Roddy was warmly received by most faith leaders at the event after several days of protests in the city.

David Roddy's accomplishments over a 26-year career in law enforcement don't need my praise. His achievements speak for themselves.

So when I saw that Roddy is retiring from the Chattanooga Police Department after serving as chief for four years, it gave me pause.

Call me a cynic if you want, but after we ask who the next chief will be, maybe we should be wondering if we should have seen this coming. Perhaps this unexpected announcement shouldn't have been all that unexpected.

Think back when then-mayoral candidate Tim Kelly "reaffirmed" his support of Roddy during the heated runoff race against Kim White in the days after a city council candidate said publicly that Kelly intended to replace Roddy with a Black woman.

Oh, there was quite the political backtracking when news outlets reported on that conversation. But a lot of Kelly's runoff momentum that carried him into the mayor's office came from the support of Black political leaders and influencers.

A broad group of Black leaders, pastors, community members and former mayoral candidates announced their support for Kelly. Days later, District 5 candidate Dennis Clark said that Kelly had already decided on Capt. Jerri Sutton as the next chief.

In an online interview with Black activist C-Grimey Williams, Clark detailed the rumored succession plan if Kelly won, before saying on the since-deleted video, "Did I just say something that's not public?"

I guess we'll see just how far-fetched Clark's "not public" prediction from March will be, and we'll see it sooner rather than later.

It also makes for a strange situation for Sutton, a decorated officer. Through no fault of her own, her name was thrown out into the community at large for a job she may or may not even want, and if she is interested, the pre-runoff predictions make it look like her promotion could be politics as much as anything else.

In the fallout after the interview was released, Clark quickly recanted.

"I misspoke from a private conversation I had," Clark told the TFP at the time. "I didn't get that information from the [Kelly] campaign, but I thought my source was reliable."

I couldn't help but think of Clark's words — and Kelly's after-the-fact pledge that he and Roddy would "get to know each other" and move forward — when the news of Roddy's pending retirement broke Monday.

"He's done a great job in challenging times, and there's no reason. I've given my word. I think he's the right guy," Kelly said in March about Roddy after the whispers about his imminent replacement surfaced. "We'll get to know each other better once I'm in there and we collaborate on a vision for the department based on community policing and public safety and transparency and accountability and all that. And we'll move forward."

Moving forward lasted less than two months.

And yes, everyone rightly will say it's Roddy's decision — that's the definition of retiring — and he's entitled to make it. He's been the chief for four years, and that job, especially in this culture and climate, should be measured in dog years, meaning four years is closer to three decades.

His professional life was one of public service — he spent more than a quarter-century wearing the uniform and working to make our city safer — and he's put in his time.

"I am now focusing on personal timing," Roddy said in a statement announcing his decision. "The last 26 years of my life and my family's life have been connected with the Chattanooga Police Department. It's now time for that energy to go to my family and the next chapter of my life."

His chapter as chief will end July 30, according to the news release.

Kelly will name an interim chief and then proceed with a search for a successor. I have two hopes:

First, that whoever fills Roddy's role can be as effective and dedicated as he was, whether they are Black, white, male or female.

Second, I hope this decision was 100% Roddy's and not part of the push-and-shove, backroom deal-making that is too often a signature of our local politics.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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