Police and cop apologists love to say that “if you have nothing to hide than you have nothing to worry about” but apparently what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. While being tasked with protecting and serving and enforcing the laws of the land, cries for more accountability continue to ring over police misconduct and excessive force. If the performance by police was satisfactory those cries wouldn’t reach a deafening crescendo however it appears that it has done just that.
The Nashville City Council pushed forward a measure to create a civilian oversight board via city ordinance Tuesday. The measure, introduced by Councilman Scott Davis, would call for an 11-member civilian board to investigate charges of police misconduct and excessive force. The council cited all the instances of the aforementioned acts that have made national news since Michael. Brown. Councilman Davis himself said that even he has been racially profiled and falsely arrested by police adding that the council needed to prove their commitment to change by considering the measure.
Different organizations in Nashville, including a coalition of social justice activists and black community leaders, have been putting the squeeze on the local government for action since the death of 31-year-old Jocques Clemmons, a Black killed by a White police officer in February. In that case, and like so many others, prosecutors declined to press charges on the officer.
Activists decried that a civilian oversight board is needed due to demonstrated racial bias in police departments around the country. Rarely are officers held accountable and made to pay for bad or criminal behavior.
The lack of accountability for police misconduct has many residents up at arms and demanding change. Davis is trying to usher in that change… but not everyone is on board.
Fraternal Order of Police President James Smallwood has come out against the measure sending a strong impassioned email to the Metro Council asking that the measure be struck down. According to Smallwood, Councilman Davis failed to speak with officers who are regularly servicing the communities before drafting the legislation.
But how can we help the professionals if they are above criticism? How do we as a community improve the policing if we are not able to put in our two cents as to how are communities are policed?
“This legislation clearly does not support the professionals who swore an oath to serve and protect this community,” Smallwood wrote. “It was carefully crafted to exclude the crucial perspective of law enforcement.”
According to Smallwood the measure is not legally sound and inferred that it sought to “advance an agenda that does not represent the fair and equitable treatment of all parties involved.”
The Metro Nashville Police Department is also stating that the board isn’t necessary citing its own internal review process. According to the police department their own review process has led to some officers being terminated or decommissioned.
Initially even the mayor, Megan Barry, resisted the calls for the civilian oversight board but has since changed her tune stating that she would be willing to talk more about the idea.
The measure’s success in the first round has empowered Davis and his supporters.
The Tennessean reports:
Davis’ push is the most concrete win so far for activists, some of whom watched council members spar before the vote to allow the bill to work its way through committees and public hearings.
Those votes are typically procedural rubber stamps. But Councilman Russ Pulley, a former FBI agent, pulled Davis’ bill out for an early debate, saying he wanted to avoid “a perception that we are in any way rushing this.”
Davis defended the bill calling it the “hardest piece of legislation I’ve ever had to draft.”
“We’ve been screaming out there for years in this community,” Davis said. “Let us know there is some hope out there. We want the police’s input. We’re not trying to rush things, but we have to look at the issues.”
Smallwood said he would not work with Davis on the bill even though he was willing to accept input from police. “Anything that has to do with this current legislation, I’m not interested in participating in that,” Smallwood said.
The bill was pushed forward and will be taken up again in January.
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