By Tribune Staff
It has been months since the activist group Gideon’s Army issued a report disclosing widespread disparities in police traffic stops. The report examined more than two million stops and disclosed differences in treatment that proved both surprising and shocking. Since that time, our police department has responded by claiming that the report distorts their priorities, and that the reason for more stops in North Nashville is a direct result of more crimes being committed in that area, and that there are no racial reasons or motivation behind the stops.
But the Tribune would add that this controversy is just the latest example of why there needs to be a police station near Jefferson Street. Not a substation, or transition/halfway office, but a real functioning police station, one fully staffed. Contrary to myths propagated on local right-wing talk radio, many citizens in the Black community are very concerned about safety, they deplore crime and violence, and want action taken against drug dealers and others who prey on the law-abiding majority.
What people don’t want is selective law enforcement, targeting of the Black community out of proportion to other neighborhoods, and harassment based on racial profiling. The report that Gideon’s Army released included numerous examples of people who had been singled out for nothing other than proximity to certain places, clothing, or just suspicions from police that something might be happening without proof or even probable cause to arrest or investigate. The Tribune doesn’t know know any citizens who are in favor of police state tactics, where anyone in a uniform can do whatever they please and to whoever they please without reason.
But a dedicated police station can do a lot of positive things to rebuild trust between law enforcement and community residents. First, it could help further the cause of community policing, where residents get to know who’s in their midst and not view them just as invaders or armed tourists. Second, drug dealers, car thieves, purse snatchers and other assorted predators definitely don’t want a police station within close range. They want to feel free to keep on selling out in the open, breaking into businesses and community homes, even robbing and killing people in broad daylight, as opposed to being afraid that if they commit a crime they’ll be caught.
We’re not talking now about speed traps, or unmarked drug cars sitting in business parking lots and church parking lots. Those things are already familiar sights and they’re not having much impact, mainly because everyone knows where they are, and also because some of the people participating in them spend more talking to each other than they do monitoring the neighborhood. The biggest unfunny joke in the community is that you can attract a Metro policeman quicker if you bust a taillight than if you shoot somebody.
Of course there will be those who oppose putting a police station near Jefferson Street. Many will be the same self-appointed watchdogs who opposed the plan to put a Police Administrative Building on Jefferson Street on the grounds that they felt it would be like having an occupying army on site. The fact that many of those college students from Vanderbilt, Fisk, TSU and Meharry don’t even live near Jefferson Street and will leave the city after graduation, nor do they know anything about the struggles of property and business owners in this community. African American Businesses are robbed on Jefferson Street also often. A thief does not ask if this is a black business before he enters a property on Jefferson Street he only wants what is not his.
We want to protect not only our surrounding families, businesses but our students at the 3 HBCUs.
So again we’re urging that a police station be built near Jefferson Street. The best way to improve relations between the police and the community, as well as to legitimately fight crime and also ensure that Blacks aren’t being unfairly treated regarding traffic stops and other violations, is to have a station that’s easily accessible, available and accountable.