Nine people were shot at a teen club on Christmas morning. The new politically correct phrase used to describe both victims and suspects both “urban youth,” five of the nine shot being juveniles. So what does that mean? Time to solve “The Gang Problem” for the cameras.
Oh, there have been other shootings at that location (or specifically, just outside the club by people who had just been inside, which of course absolves the owner of any responsibility as far as he is concerned). There have been rapes there, too. And stabbings, and …well, you get the picture—it’s a “church” after all. But this one made national news, so now we’ll go ahead and “solve the problem.”
Let’s start with the person making the declaration: Mayor Ron Littlefield.
He’s the same guy who decided to save money by not hiring cops for two of the last three years and freezing pay for the rest, pre-recession. (“Fact,” Ron, for when you call me a liar to make yourself feel better.) Littlefield saved more money in the last eight months by removing police cars (also known as “response vehicles” and “emergency equipment mobile storage areas”) from 58 percent of those remaining officers. (“Fact.”.) So this is the guy who’s going to solve “The Chattanooga Gang Problem.” Feel better?
Besides the dozens of dollars saved by reducing public safety officers, incentives to stay and their equipment, the mayor is shoring this up by spending money on a “study” to further access the gang threat. (I bet you thought he was going to form a Blue Ribbon Committee, didn’t you? Fools. A “study” means he is serious this time!) And he’s doing so by diverting $75,000 set aside for developing minority businesses.
Personally, I thought he was going to initially involve the head of a local gang unit (known as the Crime Suppression Unit) because he is on the street in the middle of the night with nine other cops actually meeting, documenting and detaining actual “gang members” where they live, work and play.
Or maybe the head of the local SRO program that deals with at-risk youth first-hand in the schools.
Heck, maybe get someone out of the local adult and juvenile jails who deals with the adult gangsters 24/7 in captivity.
But no. The mayor knows who knows inner-city crime and gang problems better than any gang task-force cop or jailer or SRO: A lawyer and a consultant. Zing! I’m an idiot!
In fairness, I am not a personal friend of Boyd Patterson, but I do think extremely highly of him. He is an absolute professional and dedicated to the law and prosecuting criminals—a man of integrity and a wolverine when facing a daunting task such as this. I also believe he and his co-director (a housing official and ordained minister) will include the right people as they should, but the action of the Great Problem Solver Littlefield makes for great comic relief at first blush. Particularly since the two Gang Czars are being hired six months before the completion of any $75,000 “study” after pissing away $70,000 on a parking lot to secure police cars that used to patrol gang areas.
(I will leave out the fact that local State Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga), whose district was just redistricted as majority “R,” is coincidentally thinking about running for mayor and is suddenly (and publicly) praising Gov. Bill Haslam’s new comprehensive statewide public safety plan and its impact on Chattanooga. That’s low-hanging fruit for the next guy to write about.)
Instead, I was hoping to make fun of a committee to be comprised of local ministers and assorted clergy to talk about how bad gangs are at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m. then again at 6 p.m. once or twice a week for up to two weeks—and only inside their churches. We have to do that every six months or else the public will think Local Elected Officials have no idea what the hell to do about gangs, since they don’t come to meetings or press conferences where they can be addressed.
But what did I get? A “study,” two people hired at $150,000 in salaries and more in benefits, and a hint at another $500,000 that will be needed for the recreation centers that he (wait for it!) defunded in the last three years, just as he did the police department. Please don’t say I’m alone in appreciating the irony.
Never one to criticize and run, however, let me pass on a tip to Mr. Patterson from another cop who (coincidentally works the “bad” areas of town):
The biggest challenge is going to be to get communities that believe being in a gang and slinging dope are normal, to change their belief systems.How does the mayor expect to stop young people from listening to music and learning from role models they live with? The core of the problem is that these communities need to fix their culture of acceptance of illegal activities. The surrounding communities can lend support, but the fix must come from the inside and work its way out toward the helping hands on the outside. That’s a start.
I’m making fun of The Great Peace Bringer and Budgetarian, but I do believe in Boyd Patterson and the eventual inclusion of people actually dealing with the target audience at hand. But until then? Thanks for helping us reap what you have sewn, Your Honor. (Not a fact this time, but certainly this columnist’s opinion and that of a few thousand other affected parties.)
Columnist Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years’ experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.