Nashville Mayor John Cooper Announces Policing Policy Commission to Make Nashville a Model of 21st Century Policing

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Nashville Mayor John Cooper
Nashville Mayor John Cooper

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville Mayor John Cooper today announced the creation of Metro Nashville’s Policing Policy Commission, which has been created to review use-of-force policies within the MNPD and develop necessary reforms to set a new national standard in policing and public safety.

Earlier this summer, President Obama called on mayors across the United States to commit to use-of-force reviews through a collaborative and inclusive effort. Mayor Cooper quickly committed Metro government to this emerging national conversation on policing reform.

Eric Brown, Coordinator of Economic Opportunity and Empowerment and Youth Development, and John Buntin, Director of Policy and Community Safety, are representing the Mayor’s Office in this vital and timely conversation.

“The Statement for Policing Policy Commission is comprehensive, ambitious, balanced and sensitive to the needs of the greater Nashville community,” said Dr. Chris Jackson, Pastor at Pleasant Green Baptist Church and President of the Interfaith Ministerial Alliance. “I am appreciative of the obvious diligence exerted to formulate the plan and am hopeful for the collaborative efforts that will be necessary to achieve the intended results.”

“Nashville needs a police department that is responsive to all of our residents and that is committed to transparency and accountability,” said Sabina Mohyuddin, Executive Director of the American Muslim Advisory Committee. “I am grateful to Mayor Cooper for bringing together this diverse group to begin the process of making Nashville a more just city.”

“As an advocate for victims of crime, I see the critical role law enforcement plays every day,” Margie Quin, CEO of End Slavery Tennessee. “WE need to support law enforcement and continue to find ways to improve it. Trauma affects all of our communities. I am grateful to Mayor Cooper for his leadership on this issue.”

Making Nashville a Model of 21st Century Policing

A Letter from the Mayor

Safety is the first responsibility of government. Every resident in our city deserves to be safe. No resident should fear the police or the criminal justice system. Yet polls nationwide show that African-American and Latinx communities do not have the same level of trust and confidence in police that white communities do.

There are many reasons for this. The U.S. criminal justice system has oppressed Black Americans for more years than it has protected them. It continues to punish African-Americans and people of color at disproportionate rates and in severe ways. Black men are more than twice as likely to be killed in an encounter with police as white men. Tactics such as “hot spot” policing have sometimes been used too aggressively and too indiscriminately, without the buy-in or approval of the communities where they are used.

Individual police officers did not make these policies. They did not decide to invest – or not invest – in behavioral health services, housing, and education. Elected officials did. But police officers have had to deal with the consequences.

It is time to rethink that approach.

In response to a call to action from President Barack Obama for cities to address use of force policies and practices, I have created the Policing Policy Commission (PPC). The first purpose of the Commission is to identify ways for the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) to reduce the use of force. But it also has a broader purpose: to begin a community-wide process of reimagining how Nashville can build trust and enhance community safety.

Recognize what our department does well and look for ways to build on those successes. Identify areas where our police department and our city fall short and where we can do better. Do so in a way that embraces and enhances transparency. Ask for public input as you explore these issues, document different points of view, and draft your report. That is my charge to you.

The Commission will meet for the first time next week. I would ask that you produce a report as quickly as possible and no later than the end of October. Your report will play an important role in the selection of the new Chief of Police. Metro HR will ask the finalists to respond in writing to your recommendations. Their responses will be shared with the interview panel, with me, and with the public at large. You are drafting the blueprint which the next Chief of Police will build upon. After a new permanent Chief of Police is selected, I hope that each of you will take the lead in introducing her or him to the organizations and communities you represent.

Thank you for your service to our community.

Warmest regards,

Mayor John Cooper

Process

Mayor Cooper has asked the Commission to form three committees to undertake this work. Former Mayor Karl Dean and Judge Richard Dinkins will take the lead in organizing the committees outlined below.

1)    Serving Nashville’s Communities

Certain populations – such as people with mental illnesses, the homeless, and the previously incarcerated – come into contact with police frequently, under circumstances that can be dangerous or traumatic. Others, such as juveniles, are uniquely vulnerable because of their age. Police officers themselves also encounter violent or traumatic situations at a higher than average frequency.

President Barack Obama has asked cities to share residents’ experiences with police, particularly as they pertain to use of force. In keeping with President Obama’s request, Mayor Cooper is asking this committee to collect residents’ stories and experiences. Mayor Cooper is also asking this committee to identify ways the MNPD can better engage and partner with communities and neighborhoods that need police protection the most.

Mayor Cooper expects this committee and other committees to use their judgement as they define the scope of their tasks. Among the questions and activities the committee will potentially consider are the following:

  • What experiences have Nashvillians had with police use of force?

o   Collect and share residents’ experiences with police use of force.

o   Assess the extent to which these experiences reflect specific police tactics such as “broken windows,” “hot spot” policing, and community policing.

o   Assess the frequency with which the MNPD uses force compared to peer cities.

o   Identify areas of success that can be built upon or expanded.

o   Identify opportunities to enhance transparency around use of force incidents and incidents of misconduct.

  • How does the MNPD interact with people with mental illnesses?

o   Assess Nashville’s approach to crisis intervention and diversion as it relates to people with mental illnesses.

o   Identify opportunities to supplement police responses with social workers or other or by engaging non-sworn officers (such as transportation to psychiatric facilities.)

o   Identify opportunities to improve information provided to police and other first responders.

o   Identify opportunities where further investments in mental health services are warranted.

  • How does the MNPD assist Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) in providing safety in schools?

o   Ask MNPS to report on violence incidents in schools and on how principals, police, counselors, and others respond to those incidents.

o   Review School Resource Officer (SRO) interactions with MNPS students and assess training and procedures.

o   Ask MNPS to report on school experiences with violence interrupters, counseling, and other forms of social/emotional support.

o   Identify opportunities and resource needs for police to build relationships and increase trust by interacting with students in mentoring or coaching capacities.

  • Are there opportunities for the MNPD (and Metro more broadly) to improve responses in its interactions with homeless residents, juveniles, and other vulnerable populations?

o   Document arrest trends and use of force incidents among vulnerable populations.

o   Identify opportunities to reduce use of force by utilizing additional or alternative responders (such as social or public health workers) and/or by finding additional resources for these populations.

o   Identify ways to assist and supplement police enforcement of public health laws.

  • How well does the MNPD address the psychological and health needs of police officers and other first responders who are exposed to violence?

o   Assess services offered to officers and their families.

o   Identify new initiatives that could enhance these services and further promote officer health and well-being.

o   Identify other ways to demonstrate appreciation and support for police officers.

  • How can the MNPD better support community and neighborhood engagement strategies and more effectively address violent crime, particularly gun crime?

o   Assess MNPD strategies to engage neighborhoods, nonprofits, and community groups and identify ways to enhance its ability to work with neighborhoods to address public safety issues.

o   Identify opportunities to strengthen relationships with New American communities.

o   Identify opportunities to enhance support for alternative dispute resolution processes such as violence interrupters and restorative justice practices.

o   Identify partnerships and additional resources needed to work with communities to effectively address violent crime, particularly gun crime.

o   Identify and anticipate other opportunities to use technology to enhance public safety.

o   Assess evidence-based interventions such as interventions based on the Curve Violence model, the group-violence intervention, hospital-based violence prevention programs, and other evidence-based approaches to reducing violence.

2)    Screening, Supervision, Resources, and Recruitment

Police departments sometimes have incomplete information about applicants’ previous employment experiences. That has created concerns about the MNPD hiring officers from other departments with past histories of disciplinary problems elsewhere. Mayor Cooper is asking this committee to examine how the MNPD recruits, screens, hires, and promotes officers. It should review how complaints are handled and reviewed and how supervisors provide feedback, training, and discipline.

Police departments should reflect the communities they serve. Diversity, particularly gender diversity, is associated with reductions in use of force. In addition to examining the screening and complaints process, Mayor Cooper would like this committee to examine how the MNPD recruits, hires, and promotes diversity in the department. Among the questions and activities the committee will potentially consider are the following:

  • How does the MNPD safeguard against hiring new officers with employment histories that include disciplinary concerns?

o   Assess how the MNPD screens applicants and reviews employment histories.

o   Identify additional resources needed to more thoroughly screen prospective candidates.

o   Identify opportunities for the MNPD to work with Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) to raise statewide standards and implement national best practices.

  • How can the MNPD recruit more officers from communities of color and from neighborhoods most in need of police protection?

o   Examine the MNPD’s approach to recruiting job applicants from communities of color, including New Americans, and in recruiting women candidates.

o   Identify additional resources needed to reach a broader variety of candidates.

o   Assess the adequacy of current pay, compensation, and benefits packages to attract and retain talented candidates.

  • How does the MNPD promote diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and geography in their hiring and promotion processes?

o   Identify opportunities to better support women and candidates of color before and during their enrollment in the Police Department Training Academy.

o   Assess MNPD progress in promoting diverse officers and creating an environment that values diversity.

o   Identify additional strategies and resources to promote diversity.

  • Do department procedures for receiving and recording complaints provide a complete picture of use of force in Nashville?

o   Assess the complaints process and how supervisors review use of force incidents and allegations.

o   Evaluate how the MNPD interacts with Metro Nashville Community Oversight Department (MNCO) when it comes to investigating complaints.

  • How well does the MNPD attract and retain talent?

o   Assess whether MNPD pay and benefits allow the department to attract talented and diverse applicants.

o   Identify opportunities for the MNPD to embrace the concept of procedural justice and fairness within the department in order to improve perceptions that decisions taken within the department are fair.

o   Examine and expand opportunities for rank-and-file officers to be more involved in decision-making.

o   Identify other opportunities to enhance officer job satisfaction and promote engagement with neighborhoods and communities.

o   Identify opportunities for non-profits and foundations to partner with and support the MNPD and the neighborhoods they serve in order to build trust and increase public safety.

3)    Policies, Tactics, and Training

The MNPD is committed to meeting national best practices. At a time when cities across the country are looking for ways to reduce the use of force, build trust, and create more effective public safety platforms, it is important for the MNPD to share information on how its outcomes compare to other departments. It is also appropriate for community leaders and for departments such as Metro Nashville Community Oversight (MNCO) to examine these outcomes and suggest ways to improve them. Among the questions and activities the committee will potentially consider are the following:

  • How do MNPD policies, training, and procedures related to the use of force compare to national best practices?

o   Score MNPD policies and procedures against #8cantwait policy recommendations.

o   Compare MNPD policies and procedures with national best practices, including practices recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice in police department consent decrees.

  • How does MNPD training prepare officers to engage residents in ways that minimize the likelihood of force being used?

o   Assess how MNPD training addresses explicit and implicit bias and prepares officers to serve diverse communities.

o   Assess MNPD de-escalation training and tactics and community engagement strategies and explore ways to improve their effectiveness.

o   Identify opportunities to implement procedural justice training and other evidence-based strategies.

  • To what extent does the MNPD utilize so-called military-grade equipment or military tactics?

o   Assess the prevalence of military-grade equipment in MNPD and the frequency of its use.

o   Explain circumstances under which SWAT teams are deployed.

  • What safeguards does the MNPD employ to minimize the likelihood that force will be used when serving warrants?

o   Review and assess the MNPD’s approach to obtaining and serving search and other warrants.

o   Assess safeguards around the use of “no knock” warrants.

  • How does MNPD body-worn camera policy compare to national best practices?

o   Review and assess the MNPD’s body-worn camera policy and implementation, consistent with the goal of building a more effective public safety platform.

o   Report on status of the MNPD’s body-worn camera rollout.

o   Assess processes for auditing and reviewing body-worn camera footage.

o   Assess privacy safeguards around body-worn camera footage.

Policing Policy Commission MembersPol

Karl Dean, Co-Chair of Police Policy Commission, Former Mayor and Public Defender of Nashville

Richard Dinkins, TN Co-Chair of Police Policy Commission, Judge, Court of Appeals, State of Tennessee

Ashlee Davis, VP, AllianceBernstein, Chair of Community Oversight Board

Phil Ponder, Former Councilmember

Beth Seigenthaler Courtney, Managing Partner, Finn Partners

Russ Pulley, Public Safety Committee Chair

Bob Fisher, Belmont University President

Whitney Washington, Political Director of Stand Up Nashville

Melissa Blackburn, Judge of Division II General Session Court

Bob Allen, SWAT Team Instructor, Fraternity of Police

David Esquivel, Founding Member, Bass Berry

Mac Huffington, Founder & Owner, Mac Productions

LeShaun Oliver, Police Captain, Vanderbilt University Police Department

Juliana Ospina Cano, Executive Director, Conexion Americas

Margie Quin, CEO, End Slavery Tennessee

Robert Sherrill, CEO & Founder, Imperial Cleaning Systems/ Impact Youth Outreach

Chris Jackson, Pastor, Pleasant Green Baptist Church

Sabina Moyhuddin, Executive Director, American Muslim Advisory Council

Phreadom Dimas, Youth Leader, Oasis Center

Darrell Talbert, President, ICON Entertainment

Larry Woods, Chairman, Wood & Woods Attorneys at Law

Jimmy Greer, Pastor, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

Tom Turner, President & CEO Nashville Downtown Partnership

Reggie Miller, President, National Black Police Association Nashville Chapter

Nawzad Harami, Manager, Salahadeen Center

Meera Reddy Balal, Founder, Women’s Healthcare Initiative

David Fox, Financial Markets Trader, Former Chairman of Nashville Board of Public Education

Rachel Freeman, President & CEO, Sexual Assault Center

Clifton Harris, President & CEO, Urban League of Middle Tennessee

Torry Johnson, Former District Attorney of Metro Nashville and Davidson County

Demetria Kalidemos, Executive Producer, Nashville Banner

Lonnell Matthews, Juvenile Court Clerk, Davidson County Juvenile Courts

Amanda Lucas, LCSW, Criminal Justice Member, Nashville Organized for Hope and Action (NOAH)

Bruce Maxwell, Pastor, Lake Providence Baptist Church

Sharon K. Roberson, President & CEO, YWCA

Larry Turnley, Violence Interrupter, Gideon’s Army

John R. Faison, Pastor, Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church

Manuel Delgado, Owner, Delgado Guitars

Gary Moore, Former Councilmember, Retired Nashville Fire Department, IAFF Local 140

Worrick Robinson, Member, Robinson, Regan and Young PLLC

Eli Foster, Blue Ribbon MNPS Teacher

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