Nashville’s police oversight board may receive its own oversight – before it even launches.
Ever since Nashville-Davidson County voters approved the $10 million-plus oversight board in a Nov. 6 referendum titled Amendment 1, prompting concerns from police officers, leading Tennessee Republican legislators have set their sights on the initiative.
The board has broad powers to investigate officers and call for punishments by the District Attorney, grand jury, or U.S. Attorney, and can even compel witnesses, according to its Metro Nashville webpage. Nominations to the board are due today.
Speaker-elect Rep. Glen Casada (R-TN-63), plans to study the oversight board when the Legislature convenes in January, NewsChannel 5 said.
“This is an issue we will investigate further when session begins in January with all interested parties and stakeholders that have concerns about Amendment 1 and its impact on law enforcement,” Casada said. “The safety of our citizens is paramount and we must ensure our counties and municipalities do not violate the state’s constitutional duty to protect all Tennesseans.”
State Rep. William Lamberth (R-TN-44), the incoming House majority leader, told Nashville Public Radio the board is redundant since there are other methods to oversee police.
“To spend an enormous amount of money to have an additional oversight board to do this, does appear to me to be a colossal waste of money,” Lamberth told Nashville Public Radio.
A police representative said he is glad the Legislature is concerned about the board.
“The flaws embedded in the current charter language regarding the community oversight board are beyond concerning,” James Smallwood, president of the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police, told The Tennessee Star in an email.
“With the exception of being a Davidson County resident, there are virtually no standards that potential board members will be required to meet before appointment,” Smallwood said. “There are no requirements on what training and knowledge board members should have and the charter language budgets an unprecedented $1.5 million annually. These issues, along with the many others we have discussed in recent months, should be concerning to anyone who is interested in the future of the Nashville community. We are certainly glad to see that the state legislature shares these concerns and is looking to see what standards would be reasonable for such an entity to achieve before becoming operational.”
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.