City weighs ‘fright’ factor in use of unmarked cop cars to stop women in traffic

Chief Fred Fletcher says the mother of a boy shot by gangland misdoings suffered “fright.” (Photo

Chief Fred Fletcher says the mother of a boy shot by gangland misdoings suffered “fear and horror.” But do city police traffic stops in private cars create such fright among innocent users of the public roadways? The story develops. (Photo

A public statement given by Chief Fred Fletcher in the case of the shooting of an 8-year-old boy alludes to the emotion of fear. A lengthy statement gives the public reason to understand Mr. Fletcher’s official empathy with fear and dread in the course of police work.

By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 92.7 FM

The case involves the June 8 shooting of a boy in a gang-related spat where a bullet fired allegedly by a convicted felon went through the window of the van, striking and critically injuring the boy.

“I can’t even begin to imagine the fear and horror that Mom experienced at that moment,” the chief said. “Nothing pisses off cops like bad guys who harm children.”

Noogaradio logo 92.7 fmThe question if human fear is central in a developing inquiry into the use of unmarked police cars in traffic enforcement. In the past three weeks I’ve seen three traffic stops by unmarked police cars, two on Highway 153 and one on Hixson Pike.

Stacey Johnson of La Paz says police should make citizens feel safe. (Photo

Stacey Johnson of La Paz says police should make citizens “feel safe.” (Photo

On June 6 I asked deputy city attorney Phil Noblett and city attorney Wade Hinton in separate encounters downtown to identify the authority that allows for such encounters for the purpose of traffic enforcement.

The condition of fright and shock is a legal concept, and states vary in how they treat for these subjective conditions as torts or legal wrongs (“Fright, Shock, etc.,” 38 American Jurisprudence 2d). Fear and fright are causes of concern for the public and for the Tennessee supreme court.

➤ The feeling of safety is at issue for Hispanic groups such as La Paz, who seek to shield immigrants from harassment and abuse. Stacey Johnson, the executive director of the group, in a story about a fund raiser, tells about how police and school officials want “to make sure that everyone feels safe here in Chattanooga and I think we’ve really done a good job with our partners to help people feel safe.”

➤ In at least one ruling the Tennessee supreme court has highlighted its desire to have people avoid fear and fright, especially from police. In its Hicks case allowing unconstitutional roadblocks but with judicially imposed limits, the court expresses concern for not only for the safety of motorists, “but the presence of advanced warning signs” to “‘reassure[s] motorists that the stop is duly authorized,’” thereby diminishing the possibility of surprise, concern, or fright. *** Although the absence of publicity will not invariably render a checkpoint invalid if other measures satisfy these concerns, the advanced publicity requirement of Downey must nevertheless be regarded as a key aspect of a minimally intrusive roadblock.”

The sheriff’s department appears to have express authority to use unmarked cars, but the use by municipal corporations such as Chattanooga do not have that express permission. I have argued with the police department spokesman that such use of unmarked cars requires specific authority, because of the fright factor. Private malefactors have been known to use dashboard-mounted lights and fake uniforms to arrest, stop and molest female travelers, whom account for roughly half of the traveling population. If anything, the city’s answer is developing.

The story develops further as we receive back Mr. Hinton’s response, examine the training manuals and policy files we obtained from Mr. Fletcher through an open records request and as we review Tennessee jurisprudence and court rulings on police authority. Separately I have developed the story of the challenge to policing at its roots by Basil Marceaux of Soddy-Daisy, whose interlocutory appeals and state responses to them strongly suggest an unstable legal authority for municipal policing in Tennessee.

For the record: Statement of Fred Fletcher, Chattanooga police chief

I can’t even begin to imagine the fear and horror that that that mom experienced at that moment. My heart goes out to the family. To them I say I am truly sorry you had to experience this horrific crime. As your police chief and your neighbor I cannot even express how angry I am that there are people in our community with such little disregard [sic] for life. Nothing pisses off cops like bad guys who harm children. We are all sorry this happened to your family. I want to commend your Chattanooga police officers who worked aggressively, effectively, and intelligently to locate this brazen criminal and his accomplices. Your cops put them in jail within hours of this horrible act of violence. The ability to put these bad guys in jail where they belong so quickly did not happen by accident. It did not happen overnight. Your police officers have been working with our community since I arrived here over three years ago, not just last night, but for three years to build a relationships, the strategies and the technologies necessary to make this happen. We’re fortunate to have three crime analyst who work in this very facility *** who crunch numbers and data everyday to anticipate crime trends and hotspots throughout our city. Your police commanders, Capt. Glenn Scruggs among them right here on my left, similarly work with our community [in] partnerships to best address crime. Together we all work together to determine where and when police officers need to be to place themselves between violence and our community. (


State of Tennessee v. Hicks.

Natalie Potts et al, “UPDATE: 8-year-old boy shot in critical condition, four arrested,”, June 9-12, 2017.

Christina Reuille, “La Paz Chattanooga meets with local leaders,” June 12, 2017,


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