Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Metro Council debates several police reform bills and related matters in a lengthy meeting

by Rod Williams- On Tuesday night July 7, the Council took up several bills relating to police use of force and other bills that relate to police procedures. Here they are:

Bill BL2020-329  which would prohibit the use of tear gas by law enforcement, passed on first reading. It passed by a vote of 19 yeses,  13 nos and 10 abstaining. That means it will fail if it makes it to third reading and no one changes their vote between now and then.  It takes 21 votes for something to pass on third reading.  Some of the "yes" votes may turn into abstentions or "nos."  Most bills pass first reading without discussion.  First reading is often viewed as simply allowing a bill to be considered.  Bills on first are not explained by council staff in the analysis and they have not been to committee.  Probably some of the "yes" votes were not votes on the merits but a vote to allow the bill to be considered. Many members of the Council probably feel it is simply bad manners to vote against a bill on first reading. If I were serving in the Council I would have voted "no" on this, but in general think of first reading as a formality.  I do not hold it against someone for voting "yes" on first reading. Tear gas is seldom used and without the tear gas option, police might have to use more lethel measues to combat mob violence. Council member Emily Bennett is the sponsor of this bill.

Bill BL2020-330 would give "residents the first right of question during a civic engagement with law enforcement." They could ask "a police officer if his/her body camera is recording, and require the officer to respond appropriately." This passed on first reading. This sounds reasonable to me. If I had a vote I would have voted in favor on first reading but would withold judgement on the merits of the bill until second reading.

Bill BL2020-331 on first reading would requre that "every Metropolitan police officer who has any engagement with the public shall receive implicit bias training at least once per year using curriculum developed by the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission.” If I had a vote, I would have voted for this on first reading but could not support this. I have a problem giving the Metro Human Relations Commission the authority to develop the curriculum.  Maybe there is a national curriculum that could be adopted from some respected national agency.  I just do not trust the Human Relations Commission.  This needs some study and discussion.

Bill BL2020-148 on second reading would "prohibit contracts with private operators of detention facilities." I am unsure what happened to this. CoreCivic has had enough of the city threatening to end their relationship with the company and just the day before this was on second reading said to the city that they were  tired of being "used as a punching bag by political opportunists," and put the city on notice they were going to phase out their provision of services to the city.  To progressives "for profit" is a dirty word but often government comes out ahead contracting for services rather than providing the services themselves. Government is reluctant to layoff people when the situation should recommend it and government workers with civil service protection are difficult to discipline. Also, by contracting, government can avoid the upfront cost of building new facilities. I oppose this bill and think we should be doing more contracting for services, not less, but "people not profits," and "no private prisons" has become a left-wing rallying cry.

Bill BL2020-321 on second reading requires members of the Metropolitan Council to receive disaster preparedness/response training and active shooter training.  I have never had the actice shooter training myself but know someone who has.  This persons is very progressive but has a sensitivity to the difficulty police have in making split second decisions as to shoot or not shoot.  I think it should be required for all member of the Council and wish it was required for members of the police oversight board. I hope this passed.

Bill BL2020-322 on second reading would "prohibit the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department from hiring police officers who were previously fired or under investigation by another law enforcement agency for malfeasance or use of force." This is a good bill. It was defered.

Bill BL2020-323 on second reading says, "The chief of police shall incorporate the following policies regarding use of force in any regulation concerning the conduct of officers: A. Officers shall use de-escalation tactics such as verbal warnings and advisements before resorting to force. B. Officers shall not use any form of chokehold nor stranglehold. C. Any officer who is present and observes another officer utilizing force when it is not reasonably necessary shall intervene to impede the use of unreasonable force. D. Officers shall report any use of force against civilians when any civilian is injured, complains of injury in the presence of officers, or complains of pain continuing beyond the use of physical force." My view is that this attempt to micromanage the officer's conduct in the field when confronting an immediate threat to his life, goes too far.
While trying to subdue a person who is trying to kill you, I don't think we should  be telling an officer which techniques are or are not permitted. If I had a vote, I might could be persuaded, but I would have to be persuaded that this is a good idea. My inclination is to oppose this. I think part A should be satisfied with, "Drop the gun!" However, parts C and D seem reasonable.  It was deferred.

Once the minutes are posted, I will check the status of those I am unsure about and report if they passed or did not pass. Check back. For more on this, see this link, link, and this link.

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