Metro Policing Policy Commission releases recommendations to reduce force, build trust in community

Posted at 12:47 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 23:41:42-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro's Policing Policy Commission released its recommendations for the Metro Nashville Police Department to reduce force, build trust within the community and enhance public safety on Monday morning.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper created the commission in August in response to the My Brother's Keeper pledge, which calls for cities to review use of force policies, report the findings back to the community and then reform these policies.

The commission divided into three committees, Communities, Workforce and Policy, which met virtually on a weekly basis. The commission heard from nearly 40 subject matter experts, including both Nashvillians with lived experience to national policing experts.

Mayor Cooper said he hopes the recommendations will serve as a blueprint for the next chief of police, which has yet to be named.

"As the Mayor of Nashville, I enthusiastically share and support these common goals," said Mayor Cooper. "I look forward to presenting these goals and recommendations to our next Chief of Police, as a blueprint for a Nashville model of public safety."

The commission believes the recommendations described in the report will put MNPD on the path to reducing its use of force and building trust across all of Metro's neighborhoods. Desired results include:

  • The MNPD collaborates with residents, neighborhood associations, non-profits, faith-based institutions, business and community groups, and with other government departments and agencies.
  • The MNPD better reflects the diversity of the city it serves at every level of the organization.
  • The MNPD works to eliminate disparities in the application of all types of use of force and issues regular reports around the use of force, while also providing information to the COB to conduct its core oversight responsibility.
  • MNPD officer training, skills, and behaviors, as well as department culture, reflect a commitment to consistent and respectful interactions with all Nashvillians, including African-Americans and other residents of color, Muslim Americans and immigrant-origin communities, and LGBTQ+ residents, as part of a concerted effort to eliminate disparities in the use of force.

The report identified 16 specific problems and provided recommendations, as well as a timeline, on how MNPD can address each problem.

A Nashville Model of Neighborhood Policing

Vulnerable communities report being more reluctant to call the police for fear that an officer presence could escalate the risk of a conflict.

The commission recommends MNPD immediately establish a co-response model for mental health crises by creating a Crisis Intervention Team Unit within the department and by ensuring mental health professionals serve as co-responders. The department is tasked with developing partnerships with community-based nonprofits and other government departments to support the delivery of social services and promote conflict resolution. The report also calls for Metro to increase its capacity to respond appropriately to behavioral health crises.

Additionally, the commission recommends MNPD partner with vulnerable communities to address community priorities and build on the "guardian" role of officers. It recommends offering more youth-specific programs to build a more positive relationship with Black youth and by providing settings for officers and youth to interact in non-enforcement contests.

A Police Department that Reflects the Diversity of Nashville

The commission said increased diversity within the police department should be a top priority for the next chief of police.

It recommends MNPD immediately create a new approach to recruitment that builds trust with the community, increases the number of people of color and women applicants and diversifies the recruiting unit so it mirrors the diversity sought in the workforce.

Other recommendations include offering incentives for exceptional qualifications such as multi-lingual candidates, increase digital efforts to recruit candidates and establish a new recruiting and hiring process that emphasizes the character of the candidate first.

The group also suggests MNPD create a 36-month plan to recruit qualified diverse candidates.

Disparities in the Use of Force

While there has been an overall decline in police use of force in Metro Nashville, disparities in the use of force persist.

The commission recommends MNPD immediately incorporate all policies of the #8cantwait campaign. MNPD already incorporates half of the policies, and the commission recommends the department updates the following procedures: Require de-escalation, duty to intervene, ban shooting at moving vehicles and require comprehensive reporting.

The group also recommends MNPD immediately explicitly ban "no-knock" warrants and require body cameras for all officers participating in "knock-and-announce" warrants. It suggests MNPD create a policy to regularly review video of these incidents.

Additionally, the commission calls for the immediate end of teaching "excited delirium" at the police training academy and instead partner with EMS and Mobile Crisis to develop protocols ensuring the safety of all those involved.

Other non-immediate recommendations include allowing the Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board to conduct quarterly random audits of MNPD records and require training that clearly teaches that physical force should only be used as a last resort.

Officer Training, Skills, and Behaviors and Department Culture

The commission recommends several steps to support officer preparation, training, de-escalation, use of force, cultural competency and culture within MNPD.

These recommendations include the following:

  • Address current training, policies and procedures that fail to equip officers with the skills to connect with diverse populations.
  • All officers who engage with the public should submit to annual physical and mental health examinations by non-MNPD personnel.
  • Replace the existing Training Academy facility, which the commission called "too small and seriously outdated."
  • Increase hours of empty-hand training at the academy, incorporate trauma-informed practices into all training.
  • Provide mandatory cultural competency training.
  • Take steps to improve the culture within the department including enhancing internal training and creating a "zero-tolerance" policy around sexual harassment and assault

To read the full report, click here.