Mayor Berke Announces New Office of Community Resilience in Chattanooga

Chattanooga, TN (WDEF) – Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced the formation of a new Office of Community Resilience to help residents dealing with trauma while minimizing contact with the criminal justice system.

Specifically, this new Office will be responsible for several functions:

  • Social work, including supporting victims of violent crime.
  • Recidivism reduction programs, including assistance with felony record expungements and job training.
  • Support for justice-involved youth, including new mentoring and diversion initiatives.
  • Neighborhood-based planning, through partnerships with RPA, CDOT, the Office of Economic Development, and other departments that can assist residents with planning processes that result in visions for businesses, public spaces, and other assets that communities need to thrive.
  • Independent budget analysis and policy recommendations about municipal government expenditures related to public safety and law enforcement, like 911 response mapping and fees and fines for non-violent offenses.

The mayor will appoint an advisory board later this month and recruit a full time director to lead the office.

You can read the Mayor’s full statement below.


Friends,

The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd shine new light on the catastrophic effects of racism and racial violence — injustices that Americans of color have been enduring for generations. Night after night, by the thousands, in the streets of Chattanooga and all across the country, people are insisting that we confront some painful truths about how we invest in communities of color and reconsider what real public safety looks like.

Ironically, the demands from those in the streets are frequently shared by the police themselves. Too often, police are asked to perform duties that fall outside their training and expertise. They are asked to step in when social workers, mentors, housing providers, addiction specialists, or code enforcement officers are needed. Everyone agrees that this can and should change.

While the national conversation is one of chaos and discord, when we listen to Chattanoogans, we actually find so much common ground. No one should fear the police. Everyone has the right to feel free and safe in their own homes and neighborhoods. People expect law enforcement to be competent and courteous even as they recognize the need to have other kinds of professionals helping our community in other ways. We know that when there are encounters, there can be long-term consequences of contact with the criminal justice system that can keep far too many people from reaching their potential.

I have done my best to listen — to activists, advocates, and allies in the Movement for Black Lives, to members of our law enforcement community, to national experts, and to people in our city who are worried about the future and know that change has to come. As a city of creators, Chattanoogans owe it to ourselves to create a new vision for justice, public safety, and real resilience that includes all of our residents.

That’s why today I’m announcing the creation of a new Office of Community Resilience in the City of Chattanooga. The Office of Community Resilience will be a resource within local government for helping communities heal from trauma and minimize their contact with the criminal justice system. It will provide activists, advocates, and allies with a forum to plan for a safer, stronger, more resilient Chattanooga. 

Specifically, this new Office will be responsible for several functions:

  • Social work, including supporting victims of violent crime.
  • Recidivism reduction programs, including assistance with felony record expungements and job training.
  • Support for justice-involved youth, including new mentoring and diversion initiatives.
  • Neighborhood-based planning, through partnerships with RPA, CDOT, the Office of Economic Development, and other departments that can assist residents with planning processes that result in visions for businesses, public spaces, and other assets that communities need to thrive.
  • Independent budget analysis and policy recommendations about municipal government expenditures related to public safety and law enforcement, like 911 response mapping and fees and fines for non-violent offenses.

The Office of Community Resilience will combine some of the existing functions of the Office of Public Safety, the Family Justice Center, and other programs currently administered by the City, supplemented with $150,000 coming from the Office of the Chief of Police. Later this month, I will appoint an inaugural advisory board for this office and we will begin the process of recruiting a full-time Director to lead it.

Resilience refers to the ability of a system to withstand catastrophic levels of stress and trauma without breaking entirely. The most vulnerable people in Chattanooga — low-income households and people of color — are among our most resilient. I need your help building a city where these families live in safety and prosperity, communities support themselves and each other, and people are empowered to break down the barriers that keep them from living the lives that they want.

I know that this is only another step in the process. I am still listening and we still have a long way to go. The last several weeks have shown me, over and over, that in Chattanooga we can keep making progress if we keep working together.

Thank you and please stay safe.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Government & Politics, Local News

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