Social Justice Cliques: Inside Tennessee’s Community Oversight Boards and Their Relationships with Local Police Departments

Any time an officer-involved shooting or alleged police misconduct occurs, community oversight boards are thrust center stage. In response to activists’ social justice demands over the years, some of Tennessee’s major cities – like Memphis, Knoxville, and Nashville – have established versions of community oversight boards to review police misconduct and accountability. It comes as no surprise, then, that the majority within these community oversight boards share similar social justice inclinations. 

A large portion of members’ concerns has to do with race, such as racial profiling in arrests or traffic stops, or concerning officer-involved shootings. In its latest meeting, Knoxville’s community oversight board expressed surprise that no racial discrimination claims were filed per their quarterly report. Other popular topics include equity, restorative justice, immigration, and mental health.

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Verified: Remainder of Community Oversight Board Are Registered Voters in Accordance with Law

The remainder of Nashville’s Community Oversight Board (COB) are registered voters in Davidson County. The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office confirmed this information with The Tennessee Star.

The Star inquired initially after discovering that a recently-resigned member of the COB, Ovid Timothy Hughes, isn’t a registered voter. Hughes was convicted of a felony in 2008 – mail fraud committed against a previous employer. Not only did Hughes not disclose this information, he stated falsely before the Metro Nashville City Council that he was a registered voter.

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The Tennessee Star’s Investigative Reporter Corinne Murdock Uncovers the Truth in Ovid Timothy Hughes Story

Wednesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed the Star News Network’s Investigative Reporter Corinne Murdock to the studio to discuss her finding on since resigned COB member Ovid Timothy Hughes.

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Vice Mayor Shulman Says Metro Council Will Revisit Verification Process for Community Oversight Board Members

Metro Nashville’s Community Oversight Board (COB) members aren’t vetted prior to appointment – officials say they’re taken at their word. However, the shakiness of this method was exposed/ proved unreliable after The Tennessee Star discovered that recently-resigned member Ovid Timothy Hughes isn’t a registered voter, as he’d claimed and as was required of him by law. Hughes is a convicted felon, tried and charged in 2008 for mail fraud. He racked up over $78,000 of fraudulent charges against a previous employer using stolen credit card and account information. 

Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman spoke with The Star about this revelation. He assured us that they would be taking extra steps in the future to verify all COB applicants’ voting eligibility.

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Executive Director of Community Oversight Board Not Responding to Questions About Vetting Board Members

Not all members of the Nashville Community Oversight Board (COB) have been entirely truthful with the public they serve – or the police they’re entrusted to hold accountable. Over the weekend, The Tennessee Star uncovered information that a recently-resigned member of the COB, Ovid Timothy Hughes, may have misled officials about his voting status in order to be appointed. COB Executive Director Jill Fitcheard hasn’t responded to The Star about why he wasn’t vetted prior to his appointment.

The COB is tasked with investigating police misconduct allegations, as well as issuing reports and recommendations based on research of misconduct, public safety, and the administration of justice. Those responsibilities necessitate a series of requirements for membership. Individuals must be registered voters in Davidson County; residents of the county for at least one year; and be nominated by a community organization, a petition of at least 50 county residents, or at least one Metro City Council member. Members can’t be current law enforcement members or have been one in the last five years, elected officials, or the spouse of any of the former. Members must also agree to continuous trainings in areas such as civil rights, equity, criminal justice, policing practices, cultural diversity, sexual harassment awareness. However, it is unclear if members are vetted prior to their appointment.

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Man with Ties to Conexión Américas and Nashville Community Oversight Board Will Help Investigate Christmas Day Bombing

Nashville Mayor John Cooper this week appointed seven Nashvillians to Metro’s Christmas Day Special Review Committee, one of whom is affiliated with Nashville’s Community Oversight Board and the left-of-center Conexión Américas. This, according a press release that Cooper published Friday.

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Nashville Community Oversight Board Member Who Resigned Unexpectedly Has Lengthy Criminal Record

Up until last week Ovid Timothy Hughes was a member of Nashville’s Community Oversight Board (COB), dedicated to enforcing police accountability. However, Hughes wasn’t your typical concerned citizen on the COB – he has a lengthy criminal history himself. 

Between 2001 and 2002, Hughes racked up several felony charges for burglary. He was sentenced to two years in the private prison Corrections Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic, and two years’ probation. Then in 2008, Hughes was arrested and charged for mail fraud. Hughes had reportedly stolen credit card and private account information from his previous employer. From 2006 to 2007, Hughes used the information to spend over $78,000 on items such as computer equipment and designer clothing.

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Nashville’s Community Oversight Board to Offer Executive Director Job to Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer William Weeden

Nashville’s community oversight board has turned to someone outside of the community – Chicago, to be exact – to lead the organization’s oversight of police. The oversight board voted Tuesday to offer the executive director job to Chicago attorney William Weeden, Nashville Public Radio said. The board selected Weeden over…

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Police May Have to Get Counseling, Per Nashville Community Oversight Board

Members of Nashville’s new Citizen Oversight Board will have access to police files. They can interview witnesses and police officers. They can send reports with recommendations about allegedly problematic officers to Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson, according to a new report in The Tennessee Tribune. “Those recommendations could be…

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