Media Contact

April 28, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee urged Governor Bill Lee to veto SB 591/HB 764, which would abolish existing community oversight boards and replace them with smaller, less powerful “police advisory and review committees” staffed by local mayors rather than the community. 

“At a time when our state is still reeling over the brutal killing of Tyre Nichols at the hands of police, this overreaching, unnecessary legislation only further erodes community-police relations – particularly in Black and Brown communities, which disproportionately bear the brunt of police misconduct,” said Kathy Sinback, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “Replacing existing community oversight structures with weak alternatives does nothing to promote public safety and creates obstacles to true accountability for police. We urge Governor Lee to veto this bill.” 

ACLU-TN’s letter asserts that this bill weakens committee investigative powers and oversight authority, threatens dozens of active excessive force investigations across Tennessee, and prevents committees from recommending any disciplinary action against police department employees, eliminating a critical tool existing oversight boards have used to establish dialogue with police chiefs and address community calls for accountability. The bill could also have a chilling effect on free speech and prevent civil rights leaders and criminal justice advocates from participating on oversight committees. 

The letter urges Governor Lee to veto SB 591/HB 764, stating that “An oversight committee that lacks legal authority to do anything other than issue non-binding policy recommendations is functionally not oversight at all, and will fail to improve policing practices and make communities safer.”