Chattanooga council member, Demetrus Coonrod issued a public apology Tuesday for the way she acted during a traffic stop in June. Last month, the District 9 councilwoman was a passenger in her car when the driver was pulled over and cited for driving without a license.
Officer body camera footage shows Coonrod insisting the officer contact, then Police Chief Fred Fletcher. Demetrus Coonrod tells Channel 3 she did not know Chief Fletcher personally, and she had no reason to contact him during the traffic stop. She wants constituents and the officers involved, to know she's extremely sorry.
“I apologize for jumping the chain of command. I should have taken a different approach,” said Demetrus Coonrod. She said she made a mistake and it will not happen again. “It does not demean or belittle me as a council representative.”
Chattanooga Police pulled Anthony Gladden over on June 24th. Gladden was cited for no proof of registration or insurance and driving without a license. The car he was driving belongs to Coonrod, who was in the passenger seat.
Body camera video shows the duo get out of the car to switch places, so Coonrod can drive home. But before she does Coonrod asks the officers to contact Police Chief Fred Fletcher. “I am asking you as a council representative, to get in touch with Chief Fletcher.”
“I can't do that,” said the officer, Tiffany Lentz.
“Are you sure about that?” said Coonrod.
“I am sure,” said Lentz.
Coonrod then asks the officers for the name of their commanding officer. “You should have his contact number right?”
“Whose contact number?” said Lentz.
“Your sergeant,” said Coonrod.
“I am waiting to hear back from him,” said Lentz.
After a few minutes waiting for a phone call from the sergeant, Coonrod gets in her car and leaves.
“It was a concern of safety. If another passenger got pulled over in the same routine thing. What would have happened if I got out of the car and even waved for the officer to come to the car. That is why I asked for the Chief,” said Coonrod.
Eric Tucker, CPD's Assistant Chief of Neighborhood Policing said the stop was done by the books, saying in part, "The Chattanooga Police Department has a chain of command and the officer who made this stop followed proper procedure."
Coonrod said she respects that chain of command, and regrets attempting to break it. “I sincerely apologize to everyone. Officer Lentz and I, I am thankful she handle the situation like she did. I look forward to working with her and every officer in the community,” said Coonrod.
Channel 3 wanted to know if Coonrod's response is a common one among elected officials. We have requested access to any other traffic stop reports involving council members.
Coonrod tells Channel 3 she was never guided to contact the chief or his office if she was pulled over.
Coonrod issued this statement Tuesday morning about the incident:
I would like to address this to my family, constituents, fellow council members, Chattanooga police departments and the public at large. I sincerely want to apologize for my behavior during my traffic stop last June. I made a mistake and it is uncharacteristic of my behavior, who I am as a person and how I want to represent District 9 and the City of Chattanooga. I also want to personally extend the apology to Officer Tiffany Lentz and the Chattanooga Police Department. I have the utmost respect for what our officers do and the challenges they face protecting all citizens across the city. Moving forward, this behavior will never again be exhibited and again my sincerest apologies.