CPD copes with back-to-back tragedies - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

CPD copes with back-to-back tragedies

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

As we near the first week after the fatal shootings of five U.S. military members at Chattanooga's Naval Reserve Center, we inquire as to how officers with the Chattanooga Police Department are reacting to answering two tragedies within weeks of one another.

Preceding the July 16th shootings allegedly carried out by Mohammed Abdulazeez, Chattanooga Police responded to another grisly crime scene, the multi-vehicle, chain reaction crash that left six dead just north of Ooltewah June 25th 

"We're looking at, at least from a mental health perspective and a wellness perspective, we're looking at at least a year, where people are going to feel the effects of what happened," says Chattanooga Family Justice Center Executive Director and clinical psychologist Valerie Radu, for those close, and even afar to the Mohammad Abdulazeez shootings and the horrific chain reaction crash three weeks previous in Ooltewah.

Both tragic events adding more to the standard workload of the CPD.

"As you can see, and as the world has seen, the Chattanooga Police Department absolutely rose to this challenge, and the community of Chattanooga is no different, " says CPD Chief Fred Fletcher of his department's response and the ensuing show of support from the public for police and slain military members.

The Tennessee Valley has been showing its support at both shooting locations with de facto memorials, but this is one that you may not have seen yet. This is the Chattanooga Police Department's headquarters and their squad room, where these two tables are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to thank you notes and get well wishes for Officer Dennis Pedigo.

"Police officers, law enforcement have been beat up for the past year, quite a bit," says CPD crime analyst Melinda Harris.
But Harris says its refreshing to see a renewed sense of appreciation from civilians for the 500 plus officers who serve within the CPD's ranks.

"We are definitely "Chattanooga Strong", affirms Harris. "This community has come and supported this department and the military families in such a fashion that I have never seen before." 

"But it takes a toll," says Radu despite the intensive training all first responders complete before they hit the streets to serve and protect. "Because you're still a person."

"An incident like this, there are stages and everybody progresses through them differently and so our obligation as leadership is to pay attention," says Chief Fletcher. "To provide resources and make sure people have what they need when they need it."

Officers who responded to both or either incidents must go through what's called a "debrief", to help them process their emotions after the fact.

But Radu says it could be weeks, or months, when children start manifesting their own ways of mental anguish.

"So parents and caregivers will be are going to be dealing with some behaviors and just kids that are scared, trying to understand it," says Radu.

The Family Justice Center, located near Eastgate Mall, will be open Thursday morning to anyone who feels the need to talk about Chattanooga's most recent tragedies.

A similar forum, dedicated for first responders and their families exclusively will be held Friday.

For the next year, the FJC will have a fully staffed, 24 hour phone number for anyone with the need to discuss their feelings relating to either incident. That phone number is 423-209-8390.

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