Chattanooga City Council seeks action in response to video showing officer punching a man
Chattanooga City Council members will meet with police Chief David Roddy next week to discuss department policy and their concerns surrounding body camera video that shows Officer Benjamin Piazza punching Fredrico Wolfe, who he was arresting.
An attorney released the video of the March incident on Friday. The department placed Piazza on paid administrative leave in response to its release.
During their a strategic planning meeting, the council expressed concerns with how long it took for an investigation to start, the role the two other officers in the video played, and the decision to keep the officer on the payroll while the investigation takes place.
“It should not have ever happened. That was just ridiculous and the language that he used clearly showed how he felt about this African American male,” said Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod. “For us to continue to sit here and pacify these situations; that is an issue. We’re condoning that behavior.”
It was a tense conversation between city council members as they discussed body camera footage.
“I have had enough,” said Councilman Jerry Mitchell. Anytime a police officer begins to swing something it should be just exactly like firing a gun.”
Mitchell went on to express his dislike of police department’s internal affairs investigation process.
“The investigation stays internal too long,” he said. “When it is internal what is going to happen? It does not really matter if it happens properly or not. The perception out there is that is does not. Unfortunately, in the business we are in; politics, perception is reality.”
Some council members say they should have been briefed immediately after the arrest.
“He should have been fired on the spot,” said Coonrod.
But City Attorney Phil Noblett says it is not that easy.
Under the city’s employee information guide, Noblett says Piazza can be granted administrative leave, whether paid or not paid, until an administration hearing takes place. As of now, that hearing has not been set.
“They normally try to schedule that as soon as they get the information they need. They have obviously have had to gather some of this video information at this point in time to get that on there and have an opportunity to get some type of recommendation from their staff. That is what they're trying to do I'm sure.”
Councilwoman Carol Berz questioned why nothing has been done after nearly a year, but Noblett did not have an answer.
“I’m concerned about the holes in the process. I understand “true blue,” but there were officers who watched another officer beat somebody and there was no discussion of that,” Berz said. "That bothers me.”
In the meantime, the council is taking a hard look at the police department's policy to prevent this from happening again.
“Hopefully, we'll join together and say we're going to talk about it. We are going to do something about it,” said Mitchell.
Council members also discussed asking the district attorney to consider criminal charges against Officer Piazza. A spokesperson for the district attorney tells Channel 3, “We do not file charges. Police do that. It does not matter who comes to us. We do not file charges.”
The council will meet with Chief Roddy next Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. during their strategic planning time.
As for Wolfe, he has not filed a formal complaint against Officer Piazza. He is facing a list of criminal charges in connection to the arrest. His next court date has not been set.
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