HomeTop StoriesNashville police helped lawmakers terminate oversight boards

Nashville police helped lawmakers terminate oversight boards

A retired Metro Nashville Police Department officer filed a 61-page complaint alleging that at least two senior officials within the department worked to get legislation passed in 2023 that abolished community oversight boards in Tennessee.

Those same officials, who were not named by the Nashville Community Review Board during a special meeting Tuesday, are said to be part of negotiations for a possible memorandum of understanding between the review board and Metro Nashville.

Jill Fitcheard, executive director of Community Review, said the community deserved to know the nature of the complaint after City Attorney Nicki Eke advised the board not to address the allegations, citing the ongoing investigation that could be corrupted by the explain details of the complaint.

Board member Mark Wynn, a former police officer, said the complaint, which the retired officer filed last week with MNPD’s Office of Professional Responsibility, raised trust issues.

“No citizen would say, ‘Go ahead and negotiate with someone you don’t trust,’” Wynn said. “Again, we don’t know if this is true, but you know, my thoughts turn to my time as a police officer. It seems to me that anything that comes from within the police department at this time should be considered the fruit of a poison.”

In April 2023, Governor Bill Lee signed a bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the state legislature (67-19), stripping investigative power from regulatory boards in Tennessee. The oversight boards in Nashville and Memphis were converted into review boards in the fall, losing their ability to obtain data before an investigation was completed.

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Since July 1, when the legislation was signed into law, Fitcheard and the review board have struggled to obtain data from authorities.

More: Why an uncertain future caused the chairman of the Nashville police oversight board to resign

Several residents present became restless, shouted obscenities and groaned audibly after Eke reiterated her position that the board should not discuss the allegations for legal reasons.

Eke said she did not review the entire document to determine whether the complaint was public.

Board Chair Alisha Haddock disagreed with Eke, saying the document was public and Community Review would likely not investigate the complaint since it was not filed with the department and mentioned in the complaint.

MNPD’s Office of Professional Accountability conducts internal investigations into police misconduct.

Details of the complaint were not discussed as the board moved to discuss the department’s memorandum of understanding with MNPD, a document the two sides will soon negotiate to determine, among other things, the Community Review’s ability to release public data to obtain.

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But Haddock and Fitcheard were willing to discuss the details of the complaint because they believed it created more problems before negotiations.

Fitcheard said it would be a conflict of interest for the Office of Professional Accountability to conduct the investigation, meaning MNPD would be investigating itself over allegations it helped legislate to abolish oversight boards.

Fitcheard declined to provide The Tennessean with a copy of the complaint that cited Metro Legal’s involvement and that the complaint was filed with the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Eke said discussing the details of the complaint could lead to sanctions against the board.

When asked what kind of sanctions, such as criminal law or dismissal from the board, Eke said “anything” was possible. Under the 2023 law, Nashville’s mayor has a say in who sits on the board.

Haddock said the Office of Professional Accountability said a third party of its choosing would conduct the investigation. But Haddock remained skeptical that an honest third party would be chosen.

She gestured that Mayor Freddie O’Connell should take the lead and appoint the third party.

During board comments, Wynn said he wanted to thank the retired officer for being the whistleblower.

Approving the draft memorandum of understanding on Tuesday was the first step the review board took to clear a backlog of 50 cases as it waits to review body camera footage related to complaints.

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Board member Joe Brown said it was important to move forward the draft agreement to come to the negotiating table with MNPD and discuss the suitability of MNPD negotiators.

“This complaint has made it more difficult for us to negotiate this contract,” Wynn said.

Haddock said MNPD would not be able to include the individuals named in the complaint.

She said the same people the board was supposed to oversee were trying to take away their powers.

“There were many days when we were fighting on Capitol Hill. It seemed like a fight we weren’t going to win. We were outnumbered and we couldn’t understand why at the time,” Haddock said. “But what I am saying is that this complaint before us that we received last week, if the allegations are true and prove to be true, we know why we had to go to Capitol Hill.”

Reach reporter Craig Shoup by email at cshoup@gannett.com and at X @Craig_Shoup. To support his work, sign up for a digital subscription at www.tennessean.com.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Complaint Alleges Nashville Police Worked to End Oversight

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