Following up on the community oversight bill on 1st reading…

At our Council meeting on November 7, legislation for a police community oversight board was introduced on first reading. With all the attention earlier this week on soccer, I wanted to do a quick follow-up on this.

I think there is a general consensus that a citizen’s board of some kind is possible in Nashville. In an email to Council members on November 8, the FOP told us: “The Fraternal Order of Police is not opposed to some manner of an advisory board that is compliant with current law.” At the NOAH event on October 29, 2017, the Mayor also said that she would support a community oversight board if it resulted from a discussion among all interested groups. The Mayor also reported that the administration is going ahead and hiring consultant Barry Friedman.

I believe that Mr. Friedman has referred to community oversight boards as “back end solutions” that are used after something bad or allegedly bad has happened. I understand that he prefers to focus on front end policy and training solutions created and adopted by an entire community. I understand that he also thinks that an oversight board can be appropriate at times in some cities.

I am not a sponsor of the current legislation. I had the opportunity to see a draft of the bill before it was filed. Among other things, I expressed concerns about making sure that police officer due process rights are protected appropriately. I shared that, in addition to protecting due process rights, any oversight legislation would have to legitimately respect the magnitude of the job officers do and the risks they take, and not presume bad acts by them. I also expressed concerns about whether enough community consensus-building has been done. I was glad to see that second reading was pushed off to January to allow time for discussion about this.

I am hopeful that Mr. Friedman’s work in Nashville will begin before the end of the year and that his community-led policy-making process involving all of Nashville’s interested government and private groups informs and guides what the Council does with the pending bill.

Bob Mendes

Bob Mendes represents all of Nashville as a Council-At-Large member of Nashville’s Metro Council. He is Chair of the Council’s Charter Revision Committee, a member of the Metropolitan Audit Committee, and a member of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, Rules & Confirmations Committee, and Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. Bob also practices business law at Waypoint Law PLLC. Bob’s complete bio is here. You can follow Bob @mendesbob.