NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — He’s only officially held the title since Monday, but Chief John Drake says the changes he’s implemented will make Metro Nashville Police a more inclusive, transparent, and accountable department.
While it was a little different not hearing “interim,” chief Drake says everything else stayed the same. He could now focus his attention on doing the job and not the possibility of having to give it up.
Wednesday, he sat down with NewsChannel 5 to talk about the priorities of the department moving forward. One of which was making sure people knew he was accessible. It’s part of the reason he accepted the interview in the first place.
What you learn speaking with the man now in one of the most high-profile jobs in the city, is just how much it means to him to do this where he grew up.
“I come from here and I know what it’s like in these neighborhoods. I know what it’s like when you’re parents are not there or if your role models are people doing the wrong thing,” Drake said.
His priority should then come as no surprise. Chief Drake said he wants to connect with young people who lately have been involved in more serious crimes.
“We’ve had 90 homicides already. A 30 percent increase over this time last year and at the same time we have juveniles as young as 11, 12, 13-years-old that are involved,” Drake said.
With an already short-staffed department, Metro Nashville police are now committing two teams from each precinct to serve as community engagement partners.
Going one step further, chief Drake signed his portion of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the city’s Community Oversight Board. A group dedicated to investigating allegations of police misconduct.
“That builds trust and legitimacy to show that we’re willing to work with an outside agency that the community supports,” Drake said.
It’s the type of accountability he says the department needs following claims of sexual misconduct from female officers, who still make up only a fraction of the force.
To help mitigate these concerns, chief Drake says he’s enlisted one of his staff to speak to the female officers and better understand the issues they face.
In the past few months, the department has posted signs listing the number for the station’s HR department. Chief Drake says he’s also made his direct line available for those who fear retaliation.
His second priority offers what chief Drake believes is a more lasting solution. He’s pulled several officers of different backgrounds from patrol, with the main objective of hiring more diverse recruits.
“So they’re reaching out to fraternities, universities, and everything to improve our diversity. If we increase our diversity, not only on the ground level with police officers, then we can through the ranks,” Drake said.
To date, there are 156 female officers and 211 minorities. For a police department with more than 1,400 officers in total, chief Drake says these numbers are unacceptable.
One division he feels could make the best use of the diversity is the new bureau for interpersonal crimes. The department was established to address sex crimes, trafficking, and special victims. It’s the first of its kind for Metro Nashville with three captains overseeing each crime unit.
Chief Drake understands the skepticism some have about all the changes he hopes to make, knowing he’s been here all along.
He says like in any job, he’s had bosses he hasn’t always agreed with. This time, he calls the shots and that means a culture change. For one, all officers are being told to deescalate first and avoid over-policing.
“So not only have we talked about that to the entire police department, but that’s what we’re training as well,” Drake said.
Changing a culture usually takes time, but chief Drake says change is already here and will be here for years to come.