NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Chances are, you've seen Metro Police officers out and about enforcing Nashville's mask order. But if a Metro Council ordinance passes, you could also see city employees doing the same thing.
Councilman Steve Glover calls the move a major abuse of power.
"If I was able to sum it up into one word, that one word would be stupid," said Glover. "This is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen in my life."
The way the proposal is worded, Mayor John Cooper would be given the authority to enlist any city employee or department to enforce emergency health orders.
"Just taking any administrative employee throughout Metro and asking them to have a citation booklet on you, I’m not ready to go there yet," said Councilman Freddie O'Connell.
Councilman Bob Mendes sponsored the proposed ordinance. He declined to comment, referring NewsChannel 5 to Mayor Cooper's office, calling it an administrative ordinance.
Mayor Cooper's office gave us the following list of departments that would assist in enforcing the mask mandate:
- Metro Nashville Police Department
- Metro Department of Law
- Metro Public Health
- Metro Beer Permit Board
- Davidson County Fire Marshal’s Office
- Metro Codes Department
- Metro Transportation Licensing Commission
Mayor Cooper's office also sent us this statement, in response to our questions about the proposal:
"The plan for expanding enforcement authority would be developed in consultation with representatives of the public health enforcement task force, which has been meeting on a weekly basis with the Mayor’s Office on efforts to keep both Nashville residents and visitors safe during the COVID-19 public health crisis. This task force includes personnel from the MNPD, Metro Legal, Public Health, the Beer Board, the Fire Marshal’s office, Metro Codes, and Metro TLC. By properly training and empowering personnel within these relevant departments to issue public citations, many of whom have already been directly involved in Metro’s public health enforcement efforts, we can enhance our enforcement efforts more efficiently and improve compliance with our public health orders throughout Davidson County. Metro has enforcement and citation capabilities across many departments outside the MNPD. For example, Transportation and Licensing Commission officers can cite transpotainment vehicles that are not in compliance with TLC regulations. Fire marshals can cite for compliance violations when a building is overcrowded. These and many other departments are already serving as the eyes and ears of the city’s COVID-19 enforcement strategy. They already have the authority to enforce specific portions of the Metro code. This new authority enables Metro Government to incorporate our public health ordinances within those existing enforcement capabilities."
"If it’s just those entities that already have some enforcement capacity including the training piece, then okay, I’m going to take a careful look at that, that makes more sense to me," said Councilman O'Connell.
O'Connell added that he's open to the idea as long as the ordinance's language is updated. "Maybe they’re going to bring an amendment. If they bring an amendment that narrows it in scope considerably, ok, then that gives us new material to think about," he said.
As for Councilman Glover, there's still no confusion where he stands.
"They don’t want this. This is stupid," said Glover. "I think Metro employees equal the police, the police only. Outside of the police? Absolutely not. No."
The proposal is up for a final vote at the next Metro Council meeting, September 15.