April marks the last regular meeting of the 2017 class of Leadership Chattanooga. Our topic for the day: law enforcement. Fittingly, we convened at the Police Service Center.
Chief Fred Fletcher, who recently announced his retirement from the Chattanooga Police Department after three years of service, kicked off the day by offering hard-earned lessons in leadership gained during his exemplary career.
“Everyone wants things to be better, but they don’t want anything to change,” Fletcher said.
Continuing this thought, Fletcher explained, “When it’s handled intentionally, change means progress and growth.”
When asked how he suggests a community member who wants to be part of positive change can get involved in community, Fletcher advised, “People always ask that, but in this community, there is an infinite amount of ways you can contribute – just pick one!”
Digging deeper into the criminal justice process, we traveled to the Hamilton County Courts Building to meet with Judges Tom Greenholtz and Christie Sell, Lance Pope, deputy district attorney, Andrew Childress, assistant public defender and Janie Parks Varnell, attorney at Davis & Hoss.
Many members of the Leadership Chattanooga class expressed a general unfamiliarity with the court system, especially General Sessions Court. Several classmates remarked that they had never heard of General Sessions court.
“Every person deserves individual treatment,” Judge Sell explained, educating the class on the thoughtful approach of the Hamilton County judiciary.
Picking up on that thought, Judge Greenholtz added, “Each case is unique, each person is unique, and we must tailor our approach to those unique circumstances.”
Judge Greenholtz also expressed a strong personal passion for the Hamilton County Drug Court as an especially good option under the right circumstances. Following the panel discussion, Leadership Chattanooga had the opportunity to hear more from Elaine Kelly, director of Hamilton County Drug Court.
Describing Drug Court, Kelly explained, “This is a non-traditional court in a traditional setting.”
Drug Court seeks to identify individuals in the criminal justice system whose actions appear to stem primarily from drug abuse. Through extensive and highly structured intervention and counseling, Drug Court can increase the likelihood of an individual’s continued sobriety and success.
Statistically, Drug Court graduates have a much lower rate of recidivism. After hearing several first-hand accounts from a panel of graduates and soon-to-be graduates of the program, it was hard to resist joining Judge Greenholtz in his excitement.
The consensus among the Leadership Chattanooga class was that this was one of the most interesting and enlightening programs over the past year. From our time with the Chattanooga Police Department, we saw that, in Chattanooga, we are lucky to have so many selfless, thoughtful people protecting our city.
From our time at court, we are reminded how fortunate we are to have a judiciary so invested in the fair and impartial treatment of any person who finds themselves in their courtroom.
With the Leadership Chattanooga graduation ceremony fast approaching, next month will be the final edition of this series of articles looking back over the past year.