NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson has become a target of community activists on issues of police shootings and race. At Tuesday night's mayoral debate only one candidate expressed support for the Chief.
Here's what they had to say when asked if hey would retain Chief Anderson's services:
Mayor David Briley: "Policing is obviously an area of concern across the country and we are making changes across the country in terms of how we are policing. We are well along the way in terms of getting body cams deployed across the city. We have selected a contractor and they are being deployed. Even now as we speak they are out there. We are working to get them deployed. As I've said before, moving toward more of a neighborhood policing is the way we ought to go. We actually have seen the number of car stops drop pretty radically, by almost 50% between 2012 and 2017, moving away from that stop-intensive policing. I don't agree 100% with everything Chief Anderson has done but I support him."
Rep. John Ray Clemmons: "973 days have passed since the Driving While Black study was released, providing clear data that action should have been taken since that time. Unfortunately since that time we've had a failure of leadership in Metro government. We have not seen a culture change in our police department and we have not seen any implementation of body cameras. Unlike Mayor Briley and Councilman Cooper I supported the Community Oversight Board from the beginning. Unlike Mayor Briley no one is guaranteed a job in my administration. Upon taking office as your mayor I will sit down and evaluate and discuss the issues facing Nashville and do what is necessary to restore the trust between our community and the police department. Because their job is to protect and serve but the community needs to feel protected and served."
Dr. Carol Swain: "As mayor public safety would be my number one priority. Over the past weeks I've travelled around to the eight police precincts visiting their roll calls where the officers change shift, talking with officers. There are three shifts. One of the things I've learned is that there is poor morale. There are severe shortages of law enforcement officers and there's a need for new leadership. And so I would not only ask for Chief Anderson's resignation, I would set up a committee that had representation from the police department, from the community, I would sit on it (one of my degrees is in criminal justice) and we would select a new police chief. I think we can do better. So it's not just about what happened with the shootings with Chief Anderson, he has lost the respect of many of his men and he has been chief long enough and we need change."
Councilman John Cooper: "This discussion is about who should be mayor. Not about who should be police chief but who's going to appoint this chief and the next chief and how you're going to create a police force that's as diverse as the community. Now the police force, let's just say it, it's in trouble. A lot of people have left. There's been up to 130 vacancies, almost 10% of the force. It's $75,000 to retrain a replacement for that. And in the meantime from 2014 to 2018 the murder rate doubled in Nashville. So it is a matter that we have to make priority number one is public safety. We want to go to all these other goals but you have to have safety first. And we are going to have a new era in our relationship between the community and the police. Part of that is losing quotas, getting back to community policing and having a force that is integrated beautifully within Nashville."
Chief Anderson has faced calls to step down after over his handling of two officer-involved shootings involving black suspects, both from activists and some within Metro government. Chief Anderson and the department also took a public hit over two separate studies that accused the MNPD of racial profiling or "notable racial disparities" in their policies.