James Smallwood Commentary: Vote No on Amendment 1

by James Smallwood


This year Nashvillians will head to the polls to consider Amendment #1. At face value, without any research, a civilian oversight board sounds like a good concept. However, a closer scrutiny of the details, i.e. the massive budget, lack of equal representation, absence of regulations on those who would be appointed to the board (directly by politicians) reveals genuine concerns that this board would be rife with corruption, overspending, and an anti-police agenda.

For starters, Nashville’s budget is a mess. Despite a strong economy and record low unemployment, Nashville has defaulted on promised pay raises to Metro employees and cut millions of dollars out of the budget from nearly every department. Police, fire, libraries and schools are all experiencing serious budget cuts. This, coupled with an increasingly crushing debt service, makes it obvious that the last thing we need is a redundant government board which, as proposed, would cost Nashville taxpayers $10 million over the next five years; we simply cannot afford it.

For example, police still do not have body cameras. These devices would provide the desired transparency on police interactions with the public. Nashville needs millions of dollars to pay for this program. However, the massive cost of Amendment #1 would make it far more difficult to afford and maintain this program.

Even if you favor a civilian oversight board, the language in this amendment is beyond concerning. A more carefully thought out proposal would have guaranteed representation to all parts of Nashville. If this poorly drafted amendment were ratified, some neighborhoods would be represented, and others would not. That is unequal and unfair.

Looking beyond this defect, Amendment #1 would give politicians – not voters – the right to appoint the board. There is no regulation that would keep politicians from packing the seats and paid staff positions with relatives, political cronies, and campaign donors. Furthermore, there is nothing in the amendment that would exclude convicted felons or individuals with a professed bias from appointment. A carefully worded proposal would have addressed these very real problems.

Additionally, the potential for the number of applications that could pour into the Metro Council for consideration could reach into the thousands. Our Metro Council simply does not have the time necessary to vet these potential applicants to ensure that fair and well-trained individuals would be appointed. Some supporters of Amendment #1 are well-intentioned, but even they will privately admit that the proposal was rushed to the ballot and has problems that must be solved after passage.

Metro Police officers risk danger to protect and serve this community. We place our lives on the line every single day to ensure that Nashville remains a safe and peaceful community. We know that some police officers make mistakes and when they do, they are held accountable. If a police officer is accused of misconduct, there are more than eight different civilian and government agencies that exist solely for the purpose of ensuring that accountability. Advocating $10 million dollars in new spending to do the very same things these entities do is absolutely unnecessary.

Thousands of your friends and neighbors have already voted no. They’re saying no to a $10 million tax hike, no to unequal and unfair representation, and no to political backdoor deals.

Join your friends and neighbors and vote no on Amendment #1.

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James Smallwood is President of the Nashville Fraternal Order of the Police.










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