Fact checking mayoral candidate's claims about Chattanooga police
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
In the run for Chattanooga's next mayor, crime continues to be a major topic of discussion. Some mayoral candidates have said they would want to change the strategy of how police fight crime.
In a debate last week, Mayor Andy Berke's challengers said community policing isn't working and claims the police department is struggling to retain officers.
Candidates have said half a dozen officers leave the department each month.
A claim the city's police chief said isn't true. He wants the community to have all the facts.
"I would like to point out this has absolutely nothing to do with politics, this has to do with my obligation to this community to keep it safe," said Police Chief Fred Fletcher.
Chief Fred Fletcher is responding to claims that each month six officers are choosing to leave his department.
Channel 3 checked CPD records. 22 officers left in 2014 and 26 officers lefts in 2015, an average of two officers each month.
In 2016, 43 officers left. That's an average of nearly four officers each month.
"And that's sort of harmful to their police department, you know we're trying to recruit tomorrow's professionals and when mis-information is spread, that makes it more challenging," Chief Fletcher said, "It also affects morale here because people hear things in public and they worry about them."
The Chief said retirement, and other business opportunities outside of police work are reasons for why officers have chosen to leave.
Channel 3 wanted to know how Chattanooga compared to other departments its size when it comes to police retention.
In Knoxville, 22 officers left the department in 2016, an average of two officers per month. According to KPD records, 10 of those officers retired and 12 of them resigned.
Former Lt. David Gibb chose to retire in December after 28 years with the department. He says morale is one more reason some officers have left.
"I do know from a police officer's perspective, a lot of the officers don't feel like they can actually do their job right now," Gibb said.
Gibb said since CPD adopted a community policing approach he's seen changes on the streets.
"Criminals don't fear us like they used to," he said, "and I don't mean fear of abuse or their civil rights being violated, I mean fear of going to jail."
Gibb believes officers should focus more on law enforcement and the community will support it.
"We want and strive to make our community better. We really do, that's why you get into law enforcement," Gibb said.
Chief Fletcher said regardless of who's the next mayor, he stands behind community policing and thinks it's what's best for Chattanooga.
"I've been at a half of dozen community events the past few days and I'll be at a half of dozen more going forward. So I'm glad to engage anybody about these topics," Chief Fletcher said.
Mayoral candidates have also heavily debated on issues regarding infrastructure and affordable housing.
Early voting begins Wednesday and Election Day is March 7th.