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In April of 1971, after a lengthy campaign, Gene Roberts defeated Commissioner Turner. The former journalist and FBI employee brought changes to the department. He selected Jerry Pitts, from the Memphis P.D., as his chief of police.After 26 years, the officer's uniforms were changed. Dark blue shirts replaced gray and white uniform shirts. In 1972, the department acquired two helicopters. A closed circuit television monitoring system was installed in the jail and parts of city hall for more security. One of the most notable changes was the change of color for the department's patrol cars. Traditional blue was changes to gold with a dark blue stripe. This gold color was never popular with the officers and by 1979 the decision was made to return to the more traditional dark blue.In July of 1971, the first woman to hold the title of "patrolwoman" was hired. She never worked the street, but was assigned to the youth section instead. In 1972, Melinda McKenzie and Helen Hill were hired and reported to the police academy. Both graduated from the academy three months later and "hit the streets". They became valuable assets to the department and paved the way for other women who were able to follow their example.

Education was improved for the officers and the Police Training Division conducted 12 week long recruit classes. Department members began to attend the FBI National academy. College incentive pay was introduced for officers with college degrees and a number of officers enrolled in school to take advantage of the program.

In 1973, an Arson unit was formed. This unit consisted of both fire and police personnel. The Arson unit was charged with investigating arson, explosions, or fires of mysterious origin.

In 1974, a new $1.5 million Police Service Center was completed on Amnicola Highway. This site was selected because it was in the geographic center of the city. For the first time in many years, all divisions of the Chattanooga Police Department were placed under one roof. Additionally, the department adopted a Sector Team Police model for patrol organization and the city was divided into four teams.In 1976, Chief Pitts left the department and was later elected as Sheriff. Clyde L. Willhoit replaced him. Chief Willhoit had worked his way up through the ranks and developed a reputation as being a strict but fair administrator.

In January of 1979, the governor appointed Commissioner Roberts as State Safety Commissioner and he left the department. Chief Willhoit resigned as chief of police to serve with Roberts in Nashville. "Colonel" H.P. Dunlap was appointed by the city commission to fill out Roberts' term until a successor could be elected the following spring. Jack Shasteen was appointed to the position of acting chief of police.

Walter Smart was elected as commissioner in 1979. Smart promoted Shasteen from acting chief to Chief of Police and made plans to re-organize the department. One of the first changes he made was to beef up the department's Traffic Division. Smart stated that "__The city experiences more loss of life and property through traffic accidents than through crime."

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Chattanooga Police Department
3410 Amnicola Hwy.
Chattanooga, TN 37406 (map)

Office hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 AM through 4:30 PM

Emergencies: 911

To report a crime or request assistance: (423) 698-2525

General Information:
(423) 643-5000

Crime Prevention and Community Outreach:
(423) 643-5090

Crime Stoppers Hotline:
(423) 698-3333

Drug Tip Hotline:
(423) 493-BUST (2878)

Homicide Tip Line: 
(423) 643-5100

Homeland Security




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Photo by Mike Williams