City residents hope new police chief meets community members
Celeste Murphy wants to build trust in the community; residents hope she follows through
CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – On Tuesday, Chattanooga will see its first Black, female police chief. While that’s something to be celebrated, the people at College Hill Courts hope it’s not just more of the same as other police chiefs.
Back in September, seven women were shot along Grove Street, two of them died, in a gang-related incident. It’s six months later, and there are still no suspects in the case. Gun violence isn’t a result of poor policing or police chief. If it’s going to stop, residents here believe that new chief, Celeste Murphy, needs to have her own boots on the ground.
One resident of the College Hill Courts Apartments who wanted to remain nameless says, “There are not too many police chiefs that have probably… White, Black or male or female that have actually came and showed their face to the community. Like ‘Look, I care about what’s happening here. Ask me questions or give suggestions on what I can do to make where you live a better place.'”
Former Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher says Murphy’s history of building trust in the community can work. “Relationships. One on one. Small group to small group. Organization to organization are the foundation of all meaningful change. Building those relationships is critical to meaningful change. I saw it work under (former Houston, Miami and Austin Police Chief) Art (Acevedo). I saw it work in Chattanooga, and I see it work in my consulting business across the country.”
Fletcher says that easing the violence can come if the community stands up to it. That was echoed by one of College Hill Courts’ residents.
“They put up new cameras. They got cameras with the blue lights all over. They got the drones. They got the police patrolling the area. There’s not so much that she can do. It really has to have the community itself… we have to come together as a community, as a people, and say ‘Look, this is enough! We got to do something! We got to put our foot down!'”
One clinical psychologist said that trust is the foundation of relationships because it allows you to open up to a person without having to defensively protect yourself. Residents of the College Hill Court Apartments told me they don’t trust the police, and that’s something the new Chief will have to bridge, and quickly.
Fletcher: “You cannot solve the world’s problems, but you can care about all of Chattanooga’s residents. I think she has demonstrated that that’s the kind of person she is.She cares about humans as individuals, and I think you’re going to see a chief that really, really cares about people as people and not as numbers.”
Chief Murphy has built her career on building successful relationships within the community. A successful tenure as chief might start with the chief coming to those in lower-income communities and building strong relationships there.