On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy talked about the current oversight boards and the need for ‘guard rails’ to prevent mismanagement by unelected officials that may wield political power fueled by an axe to grind.
The three men went into more detail towards the end of the segment touching upon the importance of police officers maintaining the same rights as citizens who are entitled the element of due process… “innocent until proven guilty.”
Gill: Michael Curcio is a state representative. He’s a chairman of the judiciary committee of the state house and he and his fellow legislators are trying to put some guard rails on this new community oversight board process that the city of Nashville is trying to impose. And Representative Curcio good to have you with us my friend!
Curcio: Hey glad to be here this morning. Thanks for having me.
Gill: You know, we are already seeing a lot of reports of police officers in Nashville deciding that they are going to retire if they’re at a certain age or that they’re going to seek other police duties in other communities a lot of the surrounding communities. I talked with one of the police chiefs in one of the surrounding communities the other day. They’re are getting about two or three applications a day from Nashville police officers.
Gill: And as the violence in Nashville increases and starts to bleed over into the surrounding counties. I guess the good news is places like Dickson and surrounding counties are getting a lot of very experienced capable police officers who simply don’t want the social justice warriors to condemn them when they do their jobs.
Curcio: You know we’re happy to have good talent. Whether they’re police officers or just new residents coming to town. Absolutely, we’re happy to have them.
Gill: Now what would your bill do to kind of prevent this new, I guess they are wanting to spend a million and a half dollars a year on this new process in Nashville. Maybe they could bump up police security and bring crime down, might be a good choice. I know Memphis is considering the same thing, I’m sure Knoxville would consider it. Is this intended to kind of stop it before it spreads?
Curcio responded stating that these boards are not a new development as they’ve been around since the nineteen fifties and that Memphis currently has one yet is not as well defined as Knoxville’s. He confided that he was surprised to see that the Tennessee code had no mention of these boards in the books and saw this as a good opportunity to put some ‘guard rails’ on the boards. Curcio was adamant that Nashville or Memphis or Knoxville can’t have one but it was important that officers had the same rights as citizens in terms of innocent until proven guilty. He urged that we want to make sure that we keep these boards on the center lane.
Gill: You already have in place the internal affairs at police departments.
Gill: You have oversight and review boards if something happens. You then have the criminal justice system and the civil justice system at play. Adding another, again social warrior level of second guessing and intimidation is not really producing results that I can see. How is it working in all these other communities where they’ve have had them so long?
Curcio: Well what’s interesting is the National Institute of justice reviewed all of these boards nationwide and sort of observed what works well, what doesn’t work so well. And you know we modeled our legislation, house bill six fifty eight after those observed best practices. And so, you know the outrage that we’re hearing coming from some of the folks that represent Nashville who are claiming that were picking on them. What I would ask is, “Do you not want your citizen oversight board to reflect those best practices that have been observed over decades of time across other communities?”
Gill: That would be the National Institute of Justice that is that long revered conservative right wing group right?
Curcio: That’s right, that’s right.
Gill: So they don’t even want to subscribe to what a liberal interest group says are the best practices for dealing with police involvement?
Curcio: Well I mean exactly. So I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t want their board to be the best ones in the business.
Leahy: So Representative Curcio, what you’re saying is the left wing group that set forth these best practices agrees with the element of the bill that says these community oversight boards should not have the power to issue subpoena’s for documents or to compel witness testimony?
Curcio: That’s right. I mean, so imagine this for a moment. You’re a police officer who gets called in front of this un-elected board and a member of such board has the ability to snap a picture of your personnel file and put it up on Twitter. Now, where’s the due process there? And so what we’ve done here, first of all we want to set guidelines for who can serve on the boards. They shall be a registered voter of the jurisdiction for which the oversight board has been established. It seems like a very basic level of requirement.
Gill: Well then requiring that would ensure that the members of the civilian oversight board are well, legal citizens of the United States.
Curcio: Legal citizens. Not felons or at least felons, if they’re rights have been restored or if they’ve paid they’re debt to society. But the point is they’ve got to be eligible, they’ve got to be a registered voter, that’s exactly right. That covers a lot of ground. Additionally any document provided to the board by agency shall be treated as confidential and not be released to the public. Again something very basic, that I would think no one would have a problem with. Is that, you know, if you’re a professional board, you need to keep these items confidential while these investigations are on going.
Gill: Does it included HIPPA type punishment if you leak the information? I mean again the only reason that medical facilities bend over backwards to make sure that people’s medical records don’t get disclosed is because of the erroneous and very draconian burdens placed on violators of HIPPA. Do you have any kind of punishment in place for those who are caught leaking?
Curcio: Yeah so, what we’ve done is we’ve referenced a section of code that talks about sharing documentation that’s confidential so we’ve talked about a misdemeanor. And you know, it would be the same that would be provided any other government board for leaking confidential information.
Gill questioned Curcio about what kind of response he was getting from Democrats in the legislature. Curcio stated that this was all new and that he had thirty co-sponsors when the jacket was filed but was confident that his fellow colleagues from across the isle would agree with affording police officers as like citizens, with due process would be something that all Tennessean’s could get behind. He stated that it’s a very reasonable, bipartisan measure that everyone could get behind. Leahy asked if Curcio anticipated whether Governor Bill Lee would be supporting this measure creating boundaries for the citizen oversight board as the Lieutenant Governor had just gone on record supporting recently. “I think we all get very nervous when we hear that un-elected folks who may have a political axe to grind or so forth would have unbridled subpoena power,” concluded Curcio.
Gill: Well it’s clearly political. I mean the whole creation of this board was based on the politics of a shooting or a series of shootings that involved the police. And it’s clearly being motivated by those whose family members were shot. I mean so clearly there’s a political agenda there and anybody that would deny it is not looking at the reality of what happened. Obviously the legislation is just been filed. The process is it will go through committee, you’re chairman of the judiciary committee. Are there other committee’s it has to clear before it would get to the floor?
Curcio: The bill, I mean I anticipated that I’d have a fiscal note so what we’ll do is, it will pass on first and second reading in the house in the next few legislative days. I anticipate it will be referred to the civil justice committee. Chairman Mike Carter there. And then once it passes out of that sub-committee which I do serve on it would come to the full judiciary committee where I’m chairman. And then it should head straight to calendar and rules from there and off to the House floor. So no fiscal impact here so things ought to be able to move pretty smoothly.
Gill: Who’s the Senate sponsor you mentioned that Lieutenant McNally is supportive. Who’s carrying it over on the Senate side?
The segment ended by Curcio confirming that Chairman Mike Bell would be carrying things over on the Senate side. “We wanted to send a strong message that said look, both the house and senate, the chairs and judiciary are very interested in making sure this is done properly. So we are speaking with one voice here,” concluded Curcio.
Listen to the full segment:
– – –
Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Mike Curcio” by Mike Curcio.