Jul. 17—Collegedale's new police chief, Jack Sapp, is working to change the culture of the police department, including an update to the city's vehicle pursuit policy and a focus on community policing.
Sapp was announced as the new chief on June 24, while he was serving as acting chief after the resignation of Chief Brian Hickman in February. Hickman was under scrutiny and investigation after a pursuit of a suspect in his personal vehicle.
"I think there's certainly changes and improvements that we need to make," Sapp said in an interview with the Times Free Press. "And I think we're certainly on the right path to do that. And that ... starts with some cultural change. That starts with policy."
Collegedale City Manager Wayon Hines said in an email that Sapp earned the promotion after working with the city for more than 17 years and that he believes the new chief will help curb turnover in the department.
"He knows the city, the residents, the department's strengths and the department's improvement opportunities," Hines said. "During his time as interim, he sought out improvements and showed initiative to become the best department we can be."
Sapp said Collegedale police officers, in the past, had a reputation for giving out a lot of speeding tickets and a policy that allowed for risky suspect chases over minor violations. He hopes to change that.
"Instead of hearing, 'Well, you know, Collegedale writes tickets for 2 miles an hour over,' that they're talking about all these great and positive things that we're doing for our citizens in our community," Sapp said.
"I think there was a lot of things we could have been doing better. I want our officers to really embrace community policing and getting back to community outreach. I think it's important for people to know that our agency does a lot more than just write tickets."
Already, Sapp has updated the department's pursuit policy.
"One of the things that we looked at is, 'OK, we need to really take a hard look at, is chasing somebody or creating a risk to the public that doesn't need to be there [worth it] over a minor traffic violation?'" Sapp said. "There were risks to the public that didn't need to be there, the risk to the officers that didn't need to be there. And so to protect everyone, we tightened up the pursuit policy."
According to past reports by the Times Free Press, in recent years Collegedale had made its pursuit policies more lenient and had a pursuit rate per capita nearly seven times that of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. The updated policy is more restrictive.
"We're looking at violent offenders, offenders who are an immediate threat to the public, who pose a high risk to the public if they were left to remain at large, if they weren't immediately captured," Sapp said.
"We're still going to have pursuits if it meets those higher standards and reasoning for the pursuit. And then if officers engage in pursuits that don't meet our standard and don't meet our new policy, then that'll be addressed with [them] and they'll have to be held accountable for and explain, you know, why they feel the need to continue to proceed."
In addition to the pursuit policy, Sapp wants to get the department fully accredited with the state, hire more officers and get at least 90% of officers designated as Crisis Intervention Team members in the next five years, certifying them to better help those with mental health concerns. About 24% of the force has the training so far.
"One of the things that I have always tried to instill in officers that I've supervised is that everyone should be and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect," Sapp said.
"And it all builds off of that. Taking people to jail doesn't always fix the problem. Writing a ticket doesn't always fix the problem. I just want a culture of, again, just true public service and caring for people looking beyond just doing the minimum."
Contact Tierra Hayes at email@example.com.