UPDATE: Chattanooga City Council withdraws subpoena issued to DA - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Chattanooga City Council withdraws subpoena issued to DA PInkston

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Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston

UPDATE: Tuesday, Chattanooga City Council voted unanimously to withdraw the subpoena issued last week to District Attorney General Neal Pinkston subpoena.

Chip Henderson, the chair of the Public Safety Committee, called off public safety meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

PREVIOUS STORY: After accepting a subpoena Thursday issued by the Chattanooga County Council, DA Neal Pinkston said Friday he would not appear before the council next week.

PREVIOUS STORY: Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston has been subpoenaed by the City Council on Tuesday. General Pinkston released an email responding for the first time since sending a letter regarding VRI. Read the full email below. 

PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga's violence issues continue as officials battle among themselves over how best to solve the related crimes and make the city more safe for citizens.

READ MORE | Chattanooga City Council votes to subpoena DA

One Tuesday, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston announced plans to form a gang unit with several agencies to battle violent crime in the city.

But Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's Violence Reduction Initiative has been in place for several years now, albeit with some mixed results.

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher took exception to the DA's new plan Tuesday during the Chattanooga City Council meeting.

Fletcher said that the table for discussion of the city's violent crimes had a place for DA Pinkston, but he hasn't yet joined the city in working towards solutions.

Earlier Tuesday, Pinkston announced Tuesday he’s planning to form a multi-agency gang unit to combat violent gang crime in Chattanooga.

Pinkston made his announcement in a letter to city council members just hours before they’re set to meet publicly to discuss the Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI) with several of its leaders.

"The unit's specialized investigators will focus on homicides, armed robberies, attempted murders, weapons and drug cases, as well as other violent offenses," Pinkston wrote in a letter Tuesday to city council members. "The right cases are not reaching court with enough frequency to stop violence. That is a problem I will seek to change with the creation of a Multi-Agency Gang Unit."

READ MORE | Council members want to hear VRI's "successes and failures" in Tuesday meeting

Pinkston also explained why he said he believes VRI, which was adopted in March 2014, is a failure on the part of the city.

"The VRI is not working because the city isn't implementing many of the basic components the initiative requires," Pinkston wrote.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke responded to the letter by telling Channel 3: "I am not interested in pointing fingers -- I'm interested in ways we can make the city safer for Chattanoogans. That works best when everyone stops blaming others and comes to the table, accepts responsibility, and works together. Unfortunately, General Pinkston does not appear to be interested in doing that."

Lacie Stone, Senior Advisor to Mayor Berke said in an email to Channel 3 Berke has reached out to General Pinkston numerous times to discuss any issues he may have with VRI. General Pinkston has not returned his [Berke's] calls or Mayor Berke's multiple requests for a meeting. 

Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI) was launched by Mayor Berke in 2013 after the Chattanooga City Council approved a $280,000 for a study based on the High Point Initiative to reduce violence using police, community leaders and others.

Berke's website cited the success of the programs in High Point, NC; Boston, Chicago, and Baltimore.

On the Mayor's website, he said "I have no doubt we will see real results in 2014."

Pinkston’s office said representatives with several federal, state and local agencies have taken an interest in the task force, although no formal meetings have taken place.

On Tuesday, public information officer Melydia Clewell told Channel 3 the DA's office has contacted the following agencies in regards to joining the task force:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
  • U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI)
  • Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP)
  • Chattanooga Housing Authority (CHA)
  • Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO)

After Channel 3 and other media outlets attempted to independently verify the interest of other agencies, the majority denied knowledge of participation or were unwilling to discuss it publicly. 

"The FBI has not committed to the DA’s task force," said FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Paul Keenan said on Wednesday.

"However we do remain committed to working with our federal, state a local partners to help curb gang violence in Chattanooga."

The TBI did not deny its interest but is not publicly supporting the DA's effort at this time.

"We've been trying to determine if any of our staff had direct conversation with the General or his personnel regarding his proposed task force," said TBI spokesman Josh DeVine.

 "At this time, however, we have not been directly approached with a specific invitation to join a new task force." 

On Thursday Pinkston said, "I never said all these agencies were on board or that the unit was intact and created."

Sheriff Jim Hammond told Pinkston his department would be willing to participate in some way, a department spokesperson confirmed to Channel 3.

Channel 3 has reached out to the Chattanooga Police Department to find out what, if any, role the department will play in the planned task force.

"We have not been asked to join any additional gang task forces," said Chattanooga Police Department Spokesperson Kyle Miller.

Mayor Berke's office replied to the letter sent by General Pinkston above, saying, "It's unfortunate General Pinkston misrepresented or misunderstood the tone of my comments. I have no interest in a continued public discourse on this matter. I'd prefer to get back to work keeping our community safe."

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