The push by Community Oversight Now for an independent and investigative agency to address police accountability is 25 years in the making, as Nashville civil rights activists initially proposed it in 1992. Furthermore, a review board with independent powers has been a central demand of civil rights and police accountability advocates since the 1960s. In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr. first endorsed this measure in the 1960s.
Other reasons why Nashville needs an independent, oversight board are:
• Nearly 700 citizen complaints were filed each year against the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) from 2005-2015 (7,000 total), 98% of which were decided against the complainants.
• Countless citizens whose rights are allegedly violated by law enforcement, including domestic violence survivors, never file complaints because they see the process as flawed and fear retaliation.
• The “Driving While Black” report assessing 2 million MNPD stops from 2011-2015 found racial bias regarding police stops and roadside searches.
• Statements from the District Attorney and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation offices have noted institutional bias in the action of the MNPD during the investigation of the killing of Jocques Clemmons.
• In Summer 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service recommended an independent police oversight board for Nashville.
• The Davidson County Grand Jury requested more civilian input in allegations of law enforcement misconduct in its “end-of-term” report in Spring 2017.
Currently, Metro Nashville is considering the passage of a Community Oversight Board (BL2017-951). It is one tool, among others, used to protect civilians’ rights, to maintain excellence in policing, and to create a safer Nashville. When questionable things happen, such as racial profiling and the shooting of Jocques Clemmons, accountability lies within the department where the incidents happen. Doctors don't regulate themselves. Restaurants don't regulate themselves. Yet, MNPD officers regulate themselves without any accountability. Hence, the proposed oversight board shall have primary jurisdiction over investigations of alleged misconduct committed by MNPD employees against civilian members of the public, in addition to having the authority to study and make advisory recommendations regarding the functioning of Nashville’s criminal justice system.
Community Oversight Now is a collaboration comprised of Justice for Jocques Coalition, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Black Lives Matter-Nashville, Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities, Gideon’s Army, No Exceptions Prison Collective, Nashville NAACP, Workers’ Dignity/Music City Riders United, and Progressive Partners Alliance. If you are writing a check, it can be made payable to our fiscal sponsor: Progressive Partners Alliance 1419 12th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203.