Knoxville and Memphis have police oversight boards that have been in place for over twenty years.
And last November, Nashville voters went to the ballot box and spoke loud and clear: Metro Nashville police shouldn’t be in charge of policing themselves. Nashville overwhelmingly voted in favor of establishing a community oversight board with robust investigative strength — including subpoena power.
But now, state lawmakers have chosen to try to subvert local authority and the will of the people by introducing legislation that would hinder community oversight boards’ scope and reach.
SB 1407/HB 0658 would drastically limit the authority of community oversight boards across the state, specifically by dictating that they cannot have subpoena power nor require that their membership come from any specific demographic, economic status or employment history.
This undermines the voices of Nashville voters, who determined for themselves that a community oversight board is critical to stem the erosion of community-police relations and to promote basic police accountability and transparency.
Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas agrees, asserting, “The relationship we’ve built with our community because we have [the Police Advisory & Review Committee], it helps us to police better. It helps our community to understand why we police the way we do … The consequence to my city of taking away the subpoena power is going to promote a lot of discussion and unrest within my community that we will have to repair.”
Local communities across the state have spoken about what tools they need to build trust with their local police. State lawmakers shouldn’t stand in the way of that process.