Nashville Mayor Rejects Civilian-Led Police Board

Following the February shooting of a man at the hands of a Metro Police officer, demands are mounting to create a civilian review board. It would oversee and arbitrate complaints leveled against the Nashville police. A coalition of grassroots activists is beginning to draft a plan, and council members are weighing their support. But Mayor Megan Barry says she’s not interested.

Barry says she has yet to be sold on the concept of an oversight board.

“The results nationwide have been mixed when it comes to their efficacy,” Barry says. “I think the goal is to create a well-disciplined, professional police force, and there are other ways to do that.”

Chief among those ways, she says, is the plan to outfit officers with body cameras. It’s a big ticket item with a proposed cost of $50 million.

But it’s only one piece of the law enforcement puzzle, says Arnold Hayes, a member of the grassroots collective NOAH. Hayes is helping draft the legislation for a civilian oversight board. He says an independent body is critical to rebuilding the relationship between residents and police.

“How much trust is the community going to have for the police to investigate their own police?” Hayes asks.

In its nascent form, the Nashville proposal calls for a 13-member volunteer board with paid support staff and subpoena power. It also prohibits any active or recent members of law enforcement from serving on the board.

Matthew Barge is the co-director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, which helps departments across the country on reform initiatives. He says the push for an independent body to oversee police behavior has become part of modern law enforcement, especially in a post-Ferguson landscape. There are now more than 200 such agencies across the country, in cities like Austin, Denver, Memphis and St. Louis.

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