By Cillea Houghton
NASHVILLE, TN — In the wake of the release of the video showing the shooting of Daniel Hambrick, the conversation of instituting a Community Oversight Board in Nashville has resurged.
At a recent press conference, Mayor David Briley made a commitment to improve the city’s policing process and transparency. “’When any part of Nashville does not feel like it’s being treated fairly, that’s a problem for all of us…It means that we’re not as strong as a city as we can be and when applied to the criminal justice system, it means we’re not being as effective fighting crime as we could be,’” Briley said, tailoring a quote from former President Barack Obama about policing in the 21st century to Nashville. “’So we have to work to make sure that everyone feels that they’re a part of the Nashville family and we have to work to make sure we’re fighting crime as effectively as we can.’”
To begin this process, Briley has put the Policing Project into effect, a program started in New York that works to establish open communication between police departments and their communities. Briley believes the principles of the Project that support “robust engagement between police departments and the communities they serve,” rules that are “transparent” and created from public input, and the building of “sound metrics of success” for policing will have an impact in Nashville.
“We need accountability for what happens with our police officers on the streets…But I believe it’s even more important for us on the front end to do more with strategies that guide how we police so that we less often need to do anything on the back end,” he said.
Sekou Franklin, member of the Community Oversight Now Coalition, believes establishing a COB in Nashville will have a positive effect on the city when it comes to the “ecosystem of policing.” The coalition drafted a proposal and received more than 8,000 signatures from citizens supporting the referendum to be on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Nashville Fraternal Order of Police recently filed a lawsuit to block the referendum, claiming the coalition did not receive enough signatures for the proposal to be on the ballot.
“The very part of our conversation is accountability matters. We’re trying to make the system more accountable to communities that have lost faith in the basic political system and administrative agencies,” Franklin said of the COB, which has the ability to investigate police shootings after the criminal investigation is closed, conduct research and policy analysis of sectors of the justice system and more.
Franklin cites one of the misunderstandings about the COB is that it’s anti-police, explaining that it could assist police officers from a legal standpoint. “The biggest misconception is that it only pertains to high-profile excessive abusive court cases. In many cases, the COB can deal with minor disputes between police,” he continued. “It’s a measure that can actually help officers who are good actors and can protect them from potential abuses that are being carried out against them by their superiors.”
Briley has voiced his support for civilian oversight when it comes to the police department, but said he has “questions” about the COB proposal. Franklin said the Policing Project counteracts the grassroots efforts of the COB and believes acceptance of the COB would be a symbol of hope for citizens that the city is willing to help vulnerable communities and stand by those who feel misrepresented. “There is nothing right now in Nashville that addresses accountability in a robust fashion at the point of police community interactions. The larger narrative is people in this town need a victory,” he said. “This thing tells people that you can make a difference. Democracy can work.”