NASHVILLE, TN– The President and Vice President of the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF), along with members of Nashville’s Community Oversight Board (COB) held a press conference Thursday calling on Mayor John Cooper to remove Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson and adhere to requests for reforming the Metro Nashville Police Department’s policies in the wake of protests across the country calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
Held at Beech Creek Baptist Church, the organizers made impassioned remarks and took questions from reporters. Beech’s Rev. Davie Tucker, VP of the IMF, and Rev. Chris Jackson, IMF President and Pastor of Pleasant Green Baptist Church were joined by City Road Chapel United Methodist Church Rev. Jay Voorhees, Rev. Aaron Marble of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Keith Caldwell of Key Memorial United Methodist Church (Murfreesboro) and Rev. Judy Cummings of New Covenant Christian Church Disciples of Christ.
The IMF and COB have called for an apology for the harm caused to the black community from MNPD, empowerment of the COB with the backing of the Mayor’s office, Metro Legal and Metro Council, implicit/explicit bias training for police recruits, the documentation and discipline of officers with potentially problematic behavior, the creation of a public online database of officer complaints and resolutions, the implementation of body cameras and the resignation of Anderson with a nationwide search involving community members in the selection of his replacement.
The group has also called for Mayor Cooper to sign and commit to the Twenty-First Century Policing Pledge.
While MNPD is expecting to remedy the body camera issue through a negotiation penned by the Mayor and Motorola, reports show the first cameras won’t be installed until later this year, with only the 6th precinct receiving body-worn cameras (BWCs) and in-car cameras. The remaining precincts currently don’t have the technological infrastructure to support the integration of video into the system (see “Body-Worn Cameras Coming to Metro,” page 1B of the Tribune’s June 11-17 edition).
Rev. Cummings said “We recognize and realize that the body cameras are only one step. If implicit bias is not dealt with, then whether you have a body camera on or not your behavior, how you interact with that person of color, is going to be affected.”
“We are sure that the protests that have and will continue to occur in Nashville are not merely the result of a public sentiment or us being caught up in the national narrative. For Nashvillians the gruesome slaying of George Floyd was eerily familiar,” Turner said. He added Nashvillians experienced a “trauma trigger and communal consternation” upon Floyd’s death as the community continues to reckon with the officer-involved shooting deaths of Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick. “Nashville is Minneapolis,” he said.
Turner recalled the “Real Talks” community leaders engaged in with former Mayor Megan Barry that sought to identify and address systemic racism in the city. But he pointed out that the black community already knew why it existed and had been offering suggestions for years to no avail.
Results from a study conducted by Vanderbilt Divinity School and Gideon’s Army, known as the “Driving While Black” report, were submitted to back up the call for reforms. Chief Anderson called it “morally disingenuous,” Turner said. The Department of Justice also found transparency and accountability issues within MNPD.
Turner said former Mayor Barry “kicked the can” on police reform, spending over $200,000 for a report from New York University called the Policing Project Report. That report, which the city has already paid for, Turner said, substantiated the claims of the Driving While Black study and still nothing was done.
According to Turner, Mayor Cooper said he wants to do a “360 review” of the report findings. “At what point do black folk have to stop asking for white folk to do the right thing?” Turner asked. “My communal call to those who stand with us is we need to let our elected officials know–our Council, our Mayor–that something must change. Ridding the department of Chief Anderson alone will not be enough. But we cannot expect any change as long as he is the guardian.”
“Metro Police Department in the last thirty days has had three officer-involved shootings that have resulted in one death,” he added. “As we turn our eyes away do we not open our eyes to what is going on here?” he pled, recalling the deaths of Clemmons and Hambrick. “Citizens of Nashville, black and white, overwhelmingly voted in support of the COB. But all along the way there’s been obstruction on behalf of the Chief and police department.”
Citing the credibility of the COB Turner said the group included former attorneys general, former police officers, a former police chief and regular community members. He also noted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has written letters of concern with the MNPD’s policies and is also urging the ouster of Anderson.
You don’t cooperate with oversight–you submit to it, Turner said to applause. “Justice is not political–it’s Biblical. What we’re asking for is just. Our cause is righteous.”
He said he came away from the June 9 meeting with the Mayor disheartened and disappointed. “But with my faith, I am undeterred,” he remarked.
Officer Joshua Lippert had eight previous disciplinaries concerning use of force before he shot and killed Jocques Clemmons, Turner said, adding Lippert had pulled a black man out of a car two weeks prior to Clemmons’s death a block and a half away from where he was killed.
Ex-officer Andrew Delke was charged with first-degree murder and is currently awaiting trial for the shooting death of Daniel Hambrick. Recalling the police beating of Rodney King in 1991, Rev. Jackson said, “If something is not done on the front end of this we’re going to have another Los Angeles right here in Nashville if the results of [the Hambrick case] goes like it’s not supposed to go.”