A civilian oversight board for the Nashville Metro Police Department “sounds like a warm and fuzzy,” but one expert says that is not the case.
James Smallwood is president of the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police.
“People immediately think, ‘Well, that’s a great idea,’” Smallwood told The Tennessee Star this week.
A circuit court judge in September ruled against the Fraternal Order of Police in a lawsuit the group filed trying to throw out a referendum to establish a community board overseeing Metro Police, News Channel 5 said.
Once you get into the minutiae, it becomes apparent the Amendment 1 initiative that is on the Nov. 6 ballot will have a “massive cost” of $10 million over five years, Smallwood said. That is more expensive than any comparable civilian oversight board in the nation. That is not a viable option when the city is in dire financial straits.
The board also would be redundant, he said. There are at least eight layers of oversight of Metro Police already, including civilian and government agencies.
The new board would not give police equal representation – there are no regulations on who can sit on the board, other than they cannot be officers or married to an officer.
“Should we really be injecting more politics into police work? Is that really good for Nashville or for anyone in law enforcement?”
The amendment calls for 11 board members. There would be seven selected by community organizations, four from “economically distressed neighborhoods,” and four appointed by the mayor and council. There is no definition of neighborhood, community organization or economically distressed. There are no exclusions for convicted felons, illegal aliens or anyone who may be biased either in favor of or against officers.
Smallwood added, “We understand why oversight is good, but this is a horribly drafted, horribly written amendment, and it needs to be turned down.”
Also, the amendment would interfere with officers’ due process. The FOP is not sure to what extent, he said. When asked, the amendment’s authors say they had to limit the wording to one page and that detail would have to be written after the measure is passed.
“If you don’t know what you’re getting into … there is no guarantee for representation of our officers,” Smallwood said. “There is (already) a process in place for officers to be investigated and held accountable if a mistake is made, and they’re intervening in that and wanting to circumvent the constitutional rights of police officers.”
Additional comments by Smallwood are available here.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.