On Friday, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke pledged to review policing policies in Chattanooga.
And on Saturday, the organizers of protests in Chattanooga shared a list of things they expect to happen along the road of that review.
Both offer welcome news after a week of on-edge protests.
Berke announced his decision during a video call with reporters after six days of protests locally over the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25.
The "pledge" itself actually is a commitment to action offered last week by former President Barack Obama, who in a nationwide online town hall weighed in on the nation's weeklong racial tension. Obama urged mayors, city councils and police oversight bodies everywhere to review their police use-of-force policies and make other reforms to fight racism.
The pledge has four parts: Review, engage, report, reform. Review your local police use-of-force policies. Engage communities in feedback and direction. Report the findings and seek more feedback. Reform the use-of-force policies.
Chattanooga is no stranger to accusations of police brutality. Or to deaths in custody.
To be clear, however, the pace of both has slowed locally in recent years, first under former police chief Fred Fletcher and now under Chief David Roddy who, after video of the Minneapolis debacle surfaced, quickly took to Twitter not only to denounce the brutal death, but to tell officers "There is no need to put a knee on someone's neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don't have an issue with thisturn it in."
Meanwhile, Chattanooga citizens groups have marched in protests. (No, the protests were NOT riots. They were loud, and on the most contentious evening, a handful of protesters overturned a courthouse light pole and vandalized a statue and a fountain. Then despite being tear-gassed, the protesters yelled, but neither they, nor police, became violent.)
On Saturday the #ICantBreatheCHA, Concerned Citizens for Justice, The Unity Group, the African American Women's Coalition and the Community Haven Chattanooga shared a list of seven demands.
The "demands," all save perhaps one were it to be followed in extreme, seem to mesh pretty well with pledge Berke signed, and organizer Cameron C-Grimey Williams told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "Our demands are simple and can be met if our government and our people decide to work together."
Here they are:
* Divest from the police department budget and reinvest into black and brown communities.
Note that this doesn't parrot signs across the country to "defund" police. Defunding police is a nonstarter. There is likely no one among us who at some point has not needed and called for police help. Besides, to achieve some of the other very worthy demands, funding is necessary: Thus, we think Chattanooga protesters used the wise and thoughtful wording "divest" and "reinvest."
* Institute a policy of "Duty to Intervene" requiring officers to stop the harm when force is used or about to be used improperly, and in fact, Chief Roddy on Monday added this to Chattanooga police policy.
* Institute a warning-before-shooting policy, something Roddy says already is part of department policy.
* Invest in engagement of youth. In other words, beef up the Department of Youth and Family Development.
* Improve public transportation through CARTA that includes technology, security and access for the population.
* Reform prisons and release nonviolent offenders. While prisons are not under the control of the city or Hamilton County, some lines of policy and funding are. Williams and others have also called for the dismantling of the cash bond system and for Hamilton County to cut ties with private prison company CoreCivic.
* Further police training/vetting to include sensitivity training and psychological testing.
These are all thoughtful asks. And Berke's pledge, too, is encouraging. As is the recent creation of a citizen oversight board for the city's police department and the ongoing efforts to recruit black cadets along with an ongoing cadets-in-training "immersion" program to help rookie officers understand marginalized Chattanooga communities.
We look forward to watching as our city officials and community members begin to talk. But we especially look forward to seeing these discussions evolve to positive action.