By Rosetta Miller Perry
Even before the tragic shooting of Daniel Hambrick July 26 by Andrew Delke it was time for the Nashville Police Department to thoroughly examine how it was doing business. The Jacques Clemmons incident left a very bad taste in the mouths of many citizens, especially the Nashville Black community, and indeed in the mouth of all persons who cares about justice and fairness. There were many of us upset that no charges were ever made in that case, but the amount of outrage evident after that is mild compared to reactions people have had since the video of the Hambrick shooting was released last Wednesday.
The young African American young man was shot FOUR times while fleeing. The video may be grainy and taken by a sole camera a mile away, but it clearly shows that from multiple angles Delke shot a man who was running away from him. The fact that three of the four bullets found on Hambrick’s body were in the back clearly indicates he was trying to get away. Police chief Steve Anderson, after viewing the video, called it “very disturbing,” and called for an overhaul of training policies at the Academy in regards to how officers approach foot pursuit. Well, that’s fine and good, but when did it ever become standard police procedure for officers to shoot people in the back?
There’s also the allegation he had a gun. If he did, why didn’t the police or Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokespersons step forward immediately and produce it. What kind of gun? Was it fired or loaded? Was it ever pointed directly at Delke? The fact that no gun was immediately produced makes that a very questionable allegation at best. Should a gun suddenly come forward from out of nowhere, that raises another set of questions in regards to the handling of evidence at a crime scene. If there is no gun, then someone has deliberately lied to the public regarding a very serious incident.
Mayor David Briley appears to be attempting the proverbial straddling of the fence. He said during a Wednesday press conference that on one hand he does favor “community policing,” that there needs to be a serious review of police procedures, and that he does favor community oversight of the police.
But then on the other hand he has questions and/or problems with the group Community Oversight now, who’ve gathered more than twice the necessary number of signatures needed on a petition for a Community Oversight board. What kinds of questions does he have? The only relevant questions should be what will be the mechanism for creating such a board, and what powers will it have, as well as how much independence will it be given from both the police and the DA’s office. The last thing that this situation needs is an oversight board with no power or clout.
State Representative Harold Love has called for Police Chief Anderson to either resign or be fired. Anderson has publicly said he’s not stepping down. That’s a matter for the Mayor and his administration to ultimately decide. Besides the Clemmons and Hambrick shootings, there was also documented evidence of selective traffic stops, with a huge disparity that showed Black drivers being stopped far more than any others. Right now there is very little trust or respect for the police within large sectors of Black neighborhoods precisely because they’ve experienced a pattern of injustice and mistreatment dating back decades.
The Tribune joins the Hambrick family in asking that there not only be a TBI investigation, but one conducted by the FBI as well. In addition, we also stand with them, the NAACP and other organizations in asking that Delke be charged with second degree murder, or at minimum manslaughter. Whether he can be convicted in a court of law is not up to us to decide, but he certainly shouldn’t just get off with a reprimand or a short suspension. His actions should be evaluated by a judge and jury given all the facts in the case.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has made some inflammatory and ridiculous statements in their defense of Hambrick. As the voice of the police we expect them to take the officer’s side. But to argue that the shooting was justified because Hambrick had a gun and could shoot backward faster than Delke could run forward is both dubious, dumb, silly and stupid. First, no one can ran forward and shoot backward simultaneously with any degree of accuracy, assuming they can even do it at all. Second, once more thus far NO gun has been produced. The FOP also says that it is unfair to use surveillance footage video to make an assessment of the situation.
But they haven’t pushed to have either body cams for police or dash cams for cars made available, The Metro Council allocated thousands of dollars for both in 2017, but thus far only a small number of police and/or cars have been equipped. Why, the the community needs an answer NOW. You get a lot of excuses about why that is the case, but bottom line here is the FOP can’t complain about the use of surveillance video when they haven’t been pushing to get bodycams or dashcams installed.
It is time for solutions rather than more rhetoric. The Mayor should move forward immediately with plans to create a citizens oversight or citizens review board, or whatever he wants to label it. That even Knoxville has one and the capital of the state does not, is a RACIST disgrace. In addition, the entire manual needs to be reviewed. The polices on the use of deadly force should be updated, changed if necessary, and made public. Likewise the policies on foot pursuit. Under no circumstances should police officers be shooting fleeing suspects, and especially not in residential neighborhoods where anyone might catch a stray bullet or a deflected shot.
While the Tribune was stunned, shocked and disgusted at what we saw in the Hambrick video, we will make no pronouncement about his innocence or guilt as the matter remains under investigation. But we will say without hesitation or qualification that things must change in the Nashville police department, and that needs to happen immediately. Nashville police should stop shooting African American males in the back and claim self defense – this only a fool would state.