Chattanooga Police Chief discusses police reform, Tyre Nichols

Chief Celeste Murphy says goal is to keep city safe, keep violent persons off streets at public Town Hall meeting

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Chattanooga is still reeling from the death of Tyre Nichols, with talks of police reform returning to local and national attention.

The National Pan-Hellinic Council of Chattanooga hosted city Police Chief Celeste Murphy as a guest speaker Monday night to discuss how Chattanooga Police is reshaping its culture and holding its officers accountable.

One thing she made very clear tonight is that her job is to make sure the community feels safe — not threatened.

The shocking death of Tyre Nichols due to the actions of several former Memphis police officers was still fresh on the minds of Chattanoogans Monday night.

“‘Something is happening in Memphis,” said Supt. J. Anthony Taylor, Pastor for the Greater Community Church of Chattanooga. “Something is happening in America. Those words, prophetically [said] 55 years ago ring loud and clear today.”

Murphy defended those who wear the uniform while answering questions comparing Chattanooga and Memphis police officers.

She says her department does not endorse yanking drivers out of their cars during traffic stops and does not have a SCORPION Unit.

When asked about officers involved in pretextual traffic stops, Murphy says local recent events have justified their role.

“If you’ve noticed the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a whole lot of pedestrians hit,” Murphy said. “I would rather get in front of risky traffic behaviors to avoid pedestrian fatalities, more vehicle fatalities. But I definitely, on the opposite end, don’t want to stop people for nothing.”

Many answers from the police chief to residents’ questions stemmed back to her primary mission of keeping Chattanooga safe.

She says this means keeping violent offenders off city streets, potentially including members of her own staff.

“If it is brought to my attention about anyone that has a limited view on anyone in this community or acts in any way that adds to the frustration of this community, they will be held accountable,” Murphy said.

Before Murphy even answered questions from the public Monday night, she took a second to thank all Chattanoogans for the way they reacted after witnessing the “worst thing that can happen” to another human being.

She says those who protested did so peacefully, honoring the wishes of Tyre Nichols’ parents.

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