As part of our Men in Community series, we sat with Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy to talk about male presence in community and how we can solve problems in our city.
What’s your personal experience with male presence in community?
As an officer, I see male presence as critical. In fact, presence of males and females is important because the more adults you have involved in a family, the greater the bandwidth for support. If you’re a single mom (which statistics tell us is the most common scenario) there are a lot of needs placed on you. Many single moms need to work long hours or multiple jobs to support and raise their kids. It can be difficult to near impossible at times for a single mom to take a sick day, or just a nap. Without the help of trusted friends and family the door could be opened for inconsistency in the child’s life.
What fallout do you see from male absence in community?
The ACES model tells us that trauma will negatively affect a child’s brain development. But, trauma isn’t always a dramatic situation like violence or abuse, though we see those too often. Trauma can be hunger; not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Trauma can be having to wear the same dirty clothes three days in a row. When children have to face these adverse experiences, they can easily become routine.
All of those experiences are traumatic to a child, and what happens is their brain development is changed, which affects their behavior as adults. Things like conflict resolution and problem solving are driven solely by emotion in an adult with a traumatic childhood. The ACES model shows us that when men aren’t present in a child's life, it can leave the child more susceptible to traumatic experiences. Then, those kids grow up and think you can only solve conflict with weapons.
How can we fix these problems?
There are so many people doing great things in the community. The problem is most people are doing them in silos. I believe we need to be having conversations as a community about connecting across boundaries – schools, police, non-profits, etc. One examples is through Coaches, Cops, and Community (an initiative through the National Center for the Development of Boys). When kids play junior league football, many times they look at their coach as a positive male influence – sometimes the only one they have. We gave a brief, high-level overview of ACES to a group of junior league coaches, and some have changed the way they’ve coached. If we can share what we’ve learned with other groups, we can really move the needle.
Read more from the Men in Community series during June.