Community Members Call For Community Oversight Board

Posted at 10:12 PM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 23:55:40-04

More than two months after Jocques Clemmons was shot and killed by a Metro police officer, many in the community are still pushing for a community oversight  board.

The group Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) is part of  coalition of community groups working on legislation that would pave the way for the new board. Supporters said it would provide accountability for law enforcement and make the community safer.

“Anytime there are allegations of police misconduct that board would look into that and investigate,” said Arnold Hayes, a member of NOAH. “The ultimate goal is to make Nashville a safer city while having excellence in policing.”

The legislation would go before Metro Council.  Hayes said the board would be made up of community members and staff to run everyday operations.  Details are still being finalized.

It’s a concept that was first presented by protesters who brought a Metro Council meeting to a halt in February.  They called for a “people organized, Metro authorized civilian review board with subpoena power,” as well as body cameras for all officers.

Mayor Megan Barry is on board with the second request, but not the first. She said in a statement:

“Promoting trust and accountability within all of Metro Government, including our Police Department, is an important priority. That is why we have been focused on working with the community to develop and implement a body worn camera policy for our police offers that can be used to protect the public and our officers alike. The goal of any disciplinary program should be to have a well-disciplined, professional police force and results are mixed nationwide as to the efficacy of a civilian review board in accomplishing that goal. Chief Steve Anderson believes in a well-disciplined police force and making sure all officers protect the integrity and reputation of the MNPD, which is why the recent Vanderbilt poll shows that 80% of Nashvillians approve of the job the MNPD is doing. So I’m not pursuing a civilian review board at this time, but will still gather information and hear from members of the public on the issue.”

President of the Nashville Chapter of the NAACP, Ludye Wallace, supports the idea of a community oversight board, but said more needs to be done, including additional training for police officers.

“We’re not trying to cause the police not to do their jobs,” said Wallace. “This is another tool that will help the citizens understand. There are many people that don’t think the investigation of a police officer ought to be done by the police department.”

Clemmons was shot and killed on Feb. 10 by police officer Joshua Lippert. Both Metro Police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have wrapped up their investigation in Clemmons' shooting.  Now the District Attorney's office will determine if any charges will be filed against Officer Lippert.

A number of cities across the country have implemented some kind of review or oversight board, including Austin, Denver, Atlanta and New Orleans.