Mayor John Cooper is intervening in heated negotiations between the Metro Nashville Police Department and the city’s new Community Oversight Board.
Talks have stalled for weeks. And one major sticking point is that Metro’s police chief is resisting calls for a formal agreement with the oversight group.
In an email to board members last week, Police Chief Steve Anderson said — again — that he doesn’t think an agreement necessary. Up to this point, Anderson said, no issues have emerged that couldn’t be resolved through a change he made to the police manual over the summer.
But the COB wants its own outline of the group’s relationship with the department in writing, to avoid any misunderstandings in the future. Board members spent months drafting a lengthy memorandum of understanding, with input from the public. The police department and Fraternal Order of Police were also invited to provide feedback during the drafting process, though both chose not to respond to requests for comment until after the draft had already been completed.
Following multiple closed-door talks with the chief and little progress, the board decided at a meeting last month to convene a negotiation task force, with three representatives from the oversight group and three from the department.
Anderson, however, said a task force “would not seem to be a productive use of time.” Such a request, the chief wrote, overstepped the group’s powers laid out in the Metro charter.
“The formation of a ‘task force’ to ‘negotiate’ MNPD policy considerations appears to be an attempt to create a form of binding arbitration. This would appear to exceed the authority conferred to the COB by the Metropolitan Charter,” Anderson wrote. “Simply stated, the COB does not have the authority to create another body, committee or ‘task force’ to do what the COB does not have the authority to do.”
Anderson stressed that the board is only entitled to make recommendations to the police department — not force it into an agreement. Rather than sign a memorandum of understanding, the chief suggested board members submit each point in the proposed agreement as an individual policy recommendation.
“We will appreciate any input and discussion as to the necessity of each and all of these provisions,” he added.
Mayor Cooper, however, says he wants the two parties to formalize a memorandum of understanding by the end of this year. He announced Monday that a new round of talks would start this week, with one representative from the oversight board and one from the police department.
Metro’s legal director, Bob Cooper, will act as an intermediary during negotiations. He served on the oversight board until joining the mayor’s administration last month.
“Nashvillians want and expect the COB and MNPD to work together to strengthen trust and provide accountability,” the mayor said in a statement. “I commend Chief Steve Anderson and the Community Oversight Board for coming together to develop an agreement that works for Nashville.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps members.