Body camera footage taken by a police officer during a traffic stop in June shows Chattanooga City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod asking officers to contact then-police Chief Fred Fletcher after the car she was riding in was pulled over.
On the evening of June 24, officers stopped the car in which Coonrod was riding in the 300 block of East M.L. King Boulevard for having an expired registration. Anthony Gladden was driving the car, while Coonrod, who represents District 9 and owns the car, was the passenger.
In the video, Gladden tells police he does not have his license with him, and shortly after officers determine he does not have a valid license at all.
There is no physical proof of insurance in the car, but Coonrod says she does have insurance on it. The officer tells both occupants it would be sufficient to show proof of insurance online, and then returns to her cruiser to write a ticket.
“All right, Mr. Gladden, you’re going to be cited today for the no auto registration, driving without a license and the no proof of insurance. What’s your phone number?” the officer says as she returns.
“How [can] you cite me and it ain’t my car?” Gladden asked.
“You’re driving the car, you’re supposed to be aware of what’s wrong with the car,” the officer tells him.
After ticketing Gladden, the officer tells the pair that Coonrod now must drive because Gladden doesn’t have a license. Both exit the car, but instead of getting into the driver’s seat, Coonrod stops at the rear bumper, and the officer asks if she has any questions.
“Nah, I ain’t got no questions, I’m just [going to] call Chief Fletcher,” she says.
The officer says “OK,” and Coonrod tells the officer that she, the officer, can leave.
“No, you have to leave. You’re in the middle of the road and I don’t want anybody to hit you,” the officer says.
Coonrod then asks her if the officer can call a higher-up, and the officer replies that she cannot.
“I’m asking you as a council representative to get in touch with Chief Fletcher,” Coonrod says.
“I can’t do that.”
“Are you sure about that?” Coonrod asks.
“I’m sure,” the officer replies.
Coonrod then proceeds to call someone while the officers stand by, waiting for her to move the car. When she gets off the phone, she asks the officers for the name of their sergeant.
“I’ll reach out to him myself. Thank you,” Coonrod says.
Former police Chief Fred Fletcher weighed in on Coonrod’s actions and applauded the actions of the officer who conducted the traffic stop.
“I am very proud of the professional way a young officer responded to a difficult and intimidating situation,” he said in a written statement.
“I am certain newly elected CW Coonrod appreciates now that it is inappropriate to attempt to skip six levels of supervision/command and how this made an officer’s difficult job even more difficult.”
Speaking on what occurred that night, Coonrod said she holds herself to a “very high standard of integrity.”
“I was not aware that Mr. Gladden did not have his license or I would not have asked him to drive me home that evening. Once the officer instructed me to switch and drive the vehicle home myself, I promptly complied,” she said.
“I felt that the officer did not give me a proper opportunity to show my insurance and it was appropriate to notify the department administration in case proper procedure was not being followed. Even though I hold elected office, I expect to be treated like all other Chattanoogans.”
Asked about the body camera footage, Eric Tucker, the department’s assistant chief of neighborhood policing, said the stop was done by the books.
“The Chattanooga Police Department has a chain of command and the officer who made this stop followed proper procedure by notifying her supervisor of the request to speak with Chief Fletcher,” he wrote in an email.
‘The officer on the stop was professional and explained she was not able to call the chief, which was correct. The officer did notify her supervisor so he could be aware of the request.”
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at email@example.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.
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