More than two years after the fatal police shooting of Jocques Clemmons, the Metro Police Department still hasn’t completed its internal review of the incident. Instead, it’s stuck in a state of limbo.
However, the police manual clearly lays it out. After any fatal shooting, the department’s Force Review Board reviews the incident to see if the shooting was consistent with department policy.
And if not, is there discipline or training that needs to follow suit. It’s a chance for the department to self-reflect, to correct course and to examine what training is working and what isn’t.
“The power of the Force Review Board is in the dissemination of lessons learned. So that the department is always improving and improving the quality of the service it delivers,” says Matthew Barge, a partner at 21CP Solutions, a national consulting firm on police reform.
For Officer Joshua Lippert, who fatally shot Jocques Clemmons, the Force Review Board met on May 30, 2017. Now, more than two years later no report has been finalized.
According to a spokeswoman for the department, it “remains under review.” And that’s because it’s missing one thing: the signature of Police Chief Steve Anderson. Making the report’s findings and recomendations inaccessible to the department itself as well as the general public.
And the lengthy wait is unusual. WPLN looked at the last 10 police-involved shootings that warranted use of force reviews. Every single one has been completed and its report signed by the chief. Including one incident heard on the same day as Officer Lippert’s.
The case of the Clemmons shooting has been taken up by the state bureau of investigation, by the District Attorney, by the justice department, and by the FBI. Each of those inquires has been completed. And it’s been determined that Lippert will not face criminal charges.
So why is this report still lingering? That’s what Jocques’s mother, Sheila Clemmons Lee wonders.
“It doesn’t take two-and-a-half years to make a decision whether or not this man needs to be fired,” Lee says. “It angers me,” she adds. “Because we need to know.”
Lee has been fighting for Lippert’s termination for years, going as far as sitting outside the precinct where he works for months in protest.
The issue of what can come from the report is not just what happens to Lippert. Barge says it’s about the department taking stock and making adjustments before the next police-involved shooting.
But Barge also credits departments that have these boards in the first place.
“Not every department by any stretch of the imagination nationally has a Force Review Board,” he says. “And it’s a good thing that Nashville does.”