The Fraternal Order of Police sent a cease-and-desist letter to Accountability Matters PAC, saying the group used police officers’ images without permission to support Amendment 1 (setting up a civilian oversight board).
The commercial uses photographs of several Metro Nashville Police Department officers without their permission, James Smallwood, president of Andrew Jackson Lodge No. 5 of the FOP, said in a press release. The commercial also depicts the MNPD officers as proponents of Amendment 1. The officers shown without their consent in the video are opposed to Amendment 1 and were mad to learn their picture was being used without their consent.
“Today, on behalf of the officers, we sent the … cease and desist letter to Comcast demanding that they immediately stop airing the Accountability Matters commercial that uses the likeness of our officers without their consent. We expect Comcast will pull the commercial immediately and force Accountability Matters to remove the unauthorized photographs from its commercial,” Smallwood said in the press release.
“It is troubling that Accountability Matters placed the officers of the MNPD in a position where they are potentially violating not only federal law but MNPD policy that prohibits appearing in uniform for political purposes without prior consent. This obvious error by Accountability Matters reinforces our position that people who do not have the proper training, experience and knowledge should not be engaged in the oversight of police practices. Especially when it will cost the Nashville taxpayers $10 Million over five years and not afford equal representation to all Nashville neighborhoods. If you should have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.”
Five officers, including Hermitage Precinct Cmdr. Preston Brandimore, are depicted in the video, according to the letter, and all of them oppose Amendment 1, The Tennessean said, according to MSN. The paper said Accountability Matters is affiliated with Community Oversight Now.
The Tennessee Star recently ran a commentary by Smallwood in which he explains the complications posed by Amendment 1:
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.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.