The Chattanooga Clergy for Justice is asking HCSO for the immediate removal of an SRO at East Ridge High School involved in a recent arrest incident.
They are also asking to meet with HCSO and a DOJ representative to discuss changes to the departments use of force and hiring policies.
They want a response by October 3rd.
The Chattanooga Clergy for Justice says they have made multiple attempts to host a meeting between community members and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office regarding excessive use of force and hiring policies as well as conditions within Silverdale Detention Center.
They say a representative from the Department of Justice reached out to the sheriff and the department multiple times to mediate, with full transparency, a conversation between Chattanooga Clergy for Justice and the HCSO regarding these policies.
Read their full release below:
We have reached out to the sheriff's office for a response.
An affidavit shows 18-year-old Tauris Sledge was arrested after an incident with an SRO at East Ridge High School.
A video of the incident went viral Tuesday showing the officer dragging Sledge by his hair and backpack.
Now, Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett says he plans to release the officer's body camera footage.
Sheriff Garrett says the East Ridge High School SRO, which an affidavit identifies as Tyler McRae, was called to the school’s gymnasium for the report of a disorder between an 18-year-old Tauris Sledge and a member of the school’s staff.
School administrators requested the student be removed from the gym and proceed to the office, but the Sheriff says Sledge refused.
The SRO then attempted to place the student in custody for disorderly conduct. It was at this point the Sheriff says a struggle began between Sledge and the SRO.
Both the video and the affidavit say the SRO pulled Sledge by his hair and backpack, even pepper-spraying him at one point in order to arrest him
Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett released the following statement about the incident:
"A brief cell phone video of the altercation surfaced yesterday on social media that presented only a short portion of the incident without any of the context that led to the event or the events that immediately followed.
As soon as the incident occurred, I was notified and immediately directed a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this event. This includes a review of all documentation, cell phone and school surveillance video, and the SRD’s body worn camera footage which documents approximately one hour of the event from the initial interaction with the SRD, the incident shown in the social media video, and the events that immediately followed.
I understand this is a sensitive issue to many in our community. Once we ensure we are in compliance with state law and have adequately removed the identity of uninvolved minors, which includes ensuring their faces are not identifiable, I intend to make this body worn camera video available to the public. The contents of the video will show the complete picture of the events that occurred that day surrounding this deputy’s use of force at East Ridge High School.”
Sledge was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault.
Wednesday we spoke with a local pastor who thinks there needs to be better training and understanding between both students and law enforcement.
“I believe in respecting authority, obeying and complying with authority, but to see a child, in a school setting drug by his hair, and just treated in that way in front of other students.It's humiliating. I don't know if I could go back to school and finish the year out in a way. So, just as a parent, as a pastor, as just a community person, just not what we want,” says Pastor Jeffrey Wilson.
Sledge is being represented by attorney Robin Flores who says Sledge's father was shocked when he got a call about the altercation and arrest.
“What I see is a guy that has been dragged by his hair and then slung down the bleachers. And they weren't just like a bleacher to up there up pretty high," says Flores.
Flores also says he is concerned about the legality of the arrest.
"Did that misdemeanor occur in the officer's presence? If it did not occur in the officer's presence? He's got a problem. Because the Tennessee statute prohibits an arrest for a misdemeanor, outside of the presence of the officer," says Flores.
The attorney representing McRae, Jerry Tidwell, also reached out to us with a statement:
"There are people making threats against my client on social media. The 15 second video being shown on social media is only a fraction of the event that is captured on my client's body camera which has over one hour of video of this event. I ask those in the public threatening my client and his family to allow this matter to be investigated and cease making statements that scare some and inflame others without knowing the whole story."
In regards to the process of McRae becoming an SRO, Sheriff Garrett says Deputy McRae "voluntarily followed the internal application process to be considered a School Resource Deputy and was selected after the civil service mandated process was conducted."
Wednesday we asked Hamilton County Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson if he could give further comment on the incident.
“I'm gonna have the same statement that we put out yesterday, we're working with Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, they're doing an internal review as we speak. And once that's done, we'll take steps appropriately to move forward," says Dr. Robertson.
School Board Member Larry Grohn also sent us a statement:
"It’s unfortunate for the young man, but this is the type of situation which can happen when a person refuses to comply with rules and instructions. His father is his guardian and is involved and spoke with the school admin.”
In a Facebook post Tuesday, the Chattanooga branch of the NAACP said they "have questions and need answers" about what happened.
Ann Pierre, President of the Chattanooga branch of the NAACP, says she spoke with Sledge and his family.
“The young man is an excellent student, and he knew his rights in terms of when you're in a school situation, no one has the right to put their hands on you," Pierre says.
She is calling for the community’s support.
“We need to stand behind those young, black people in our school system, particularly the young black men, because they're not treated in the same manner. And when they tell us this, we need to listen," Pierre says.
This is a developing story and will be updated.