Wednesday, February 6, 2019

State legislature looks to curtail power of new civilian police oversight board

The State legislature is considering action to take away the subpoena power of Nashville's newly created Community Police Oversight Board.  Good! When voters passed the charter amendment creating the Board, I predicted that either a Court or the State legislature would curtail the authority of the Board.  It was a terribly flawed law.  The legislation being considered would not invalidate the new law entirely but would neuter it. The proposed legislation would limit any citizen board's authority to compel witnesses during the review of complaints.  The proposed legislation, "limits the authority of a community oversight board to the review and consideration of matters reported to it and the issuance of advisory reports and recommendations to agencies involved in public safety and the administration of justice." This would correct the corruption of due process inherent in the new Charter amendment. Without this subpoena power the board could do little harm but also could not do much of anything.

If not compelled to testify before the Board, I am sure a police officer accused of misconduct would, on the advice of his attorney, refuse to do so.  The Board could still issue reports and recommendations but they would carry little weight.  The Charter mandates a $2 million annual budget for the new board. When Metro government cannot give employees a promised raise, when schools are failing, and Metro is cutting millions of dollars out of budgets just to stay solvent, $2 million a year is a lot of money to just give a handful of community activist an official platform for attacking the police.  I would hope that without subpoena power, the pubic would see the board is a useless waste of money and the new charter amendment would be repealed.

In addition to taking away subpoena power the pending legislation would prohibit cities from mandating the composition of the board so as to require certain demographics, economic status or employment history for Board members. Nashville's board does that. It requires so many be from economically depressed areas and prohibits policemen or family of policemen from serving on the board.

For more on this issue see the following:

The Tennessean, Tennessee Republicans file bill stripping Nashville police oversight board's subpoena powers


Metro council picks members of police oversight board 

The Tennessee General Assembly, HB0658

Vote NO on Metropolitan Charter Amendment 1

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