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90's and 80's

80s & 90s

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 The turn of the decade brought about new challenges for the city's leadership. One of the most serious problems facing the police administration was supplying the most police services at the least cost. Economic pressures were affecting the department and inflated prices ate up the budget. Increased gasoline prices caused the administration to order officers to park their cars for ten minutes out of every hour in order to conserve fuel. The number of patrol cars was decreased with each patrol team being limited to a total of seven cars per shift.In April 1980, five elderly black women were wounded by shotgun blast while standing on a sidewalk on East Ninth Street. The shooters were quickly apprehended by the police department and were discovered to have ties with the Ku Klux Klan. Three months later, after a week long trial, two of the defendants were acquitted of all charges and a third was convicted of a reduced charge. Late on the night of July 22, less than 12 hours after the jury verdict, violence broke out in Alton Park. Rocks and bottles were hurled at fire and police vehicles as they responded to fire bombings. The scene was repeated the following night with some Poss Homes and East Chattanooga residents taking part. Mayor Pat Rose imposed a curfew in an effort to curb the violence. The sale of handguns and gasoline in plastic containers was banned.On the third night of the unrest, police investigated a fire at 38th and Alton Park Blvd. While there, officers soon came under shotgun fire. Pellets wounded eight officers but none of their wounds were serious. They were extracted by the SWAT team without further injury. After three successive nights of turmoil, the violence and civil disorder began to die down. Officers worked 12-hour shifts and sealed off many trouble spots. City officials met with community leaders in order to explore avenues to heal the city's unrest.The violence left more than $350,000 in property damaged and nearly 200 people were arrested.In 1980, Jack Shasteen announced his retirement and Commissioner Smart appointed Tom Kennedy as Chief of Police. As a 19-year veteran, the new Chief had experience in virtually every area of the department. In January 1983, Chief Kennedy took a leave of absence and announced his intention to run for the position of fire and police commissioner. He was subsequently elected and held the distinction of being only the second man in the department's history to work his way up the ranks to become commissioner.In May 1983, Eugene McCutcheon was appointed as chief of police.In Mid 1983, the department was again re-organized with a plan to put more officers on the street. The four sectors were combined into two. Patrol sergeants were no longer considered supervisors and were assigned to patrol districts. The move proved unpopular with many department members and caused considerable friction with the administration for some time. Lieutenants assumed the job duties previously performed by sergeants.The rank of assistant chief was abolished but the rank of major was created. In September of 1983, four people were promoted to the rank of deputy chief.Mandatory drug testing for fire and police employees was implemented in 1985. The testing was conducted during in-service training as a part of a physical examination. The police union filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the program and U.S. District Court Judge R. Allan Edgar agreed. The drug testing was halted after the judge ruled that the policy violated Fourth Amendment protections.In May 1989, Chief McCutcheon resigned as chief of police and was replaced by Ervin L. Dinsmore. Dinsmore announced that he would have an "open door" policy and that he held high hopes for the future of the department. His time as chief of police would prove to be short lived, however. Commissioner Kennedy retired due to health problems and Dinsmore was selected to take his place as commissioner of fire and police. Dinsmore was sworn in as commissioner on August 1, 1989.


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At the same meeting, Ralph Cothran was appointed as chief of police. The city of Chattanooga now had its first black chief. Cothran was a large man, standing 6'6" tall and was well liked by a majority of the department's members. He received a degree from Cleveland State College and was a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He served the department until November 1995, when he died after a valient fight against cancer.

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