The Community Oversight Board and the Metro Nashville Police Department have finalized a new agreement that provides broad powers to the civilian group. It’s a major landmark for the COB, which comes more than two years after an overwhelming number of Nashvillians voted in favor of police oversight.
The agreement is intended to set clear protocols for COB investigations into allegations of police misconduct and audits of the department’s training and policies. According to a draft discussed by the COB, it allows the group to receive confidential police records, visit crime scenes and conduct interviews at its offices. The document also requires officers to participate in COB inquiries, or risk termination.
This isn’t the first time oversight and police officials have struck an agreement. They spent months fiercely negotiating a memorandum of understanding in late 2019, only to find that the document they signed in January of this year failed to resolve many of the lingering disputes between the two groups. Arguments over police records, emergency notifications, interview locations and crime scene access ensued.
The goal of the new agreement is to eliminate those sticking points and help the COB get its job done without hindering law enforcement operations. And it marks a new phase in the relationship between the police department and the oversight agency, which got off to a rocky start.
New leadership at MNPD has played a major role in the detente between police and oversight officials.
Chief John Drake, who was permanently appointed to the top position earlier this week, has promised to support the board, given the overwhelming number of voters who approved the ballot measure to create the agency. And, unlike his predecessor, who declined multiple invitations to attend COB events, Drake called into a monthly board meeting just weeks after taking the helm. He has also appointed a new chief diversity officer, who will serve as a liaison with the board.
Chief John Drake just signed the MOU enhancing the relationship between the MNPD & Nashville's Community Oversight Board. pic.twitter.com/SirJGbIULo
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) December 2, 2020
The new tone of goodwill stands in stark contrast with this time last year, when the oversight agency’s executive director, William Weeden, abruptly resigned in the midst of mounting tensions with former Police Chief Steve Anderson during the first round of negotiations. Weeden struggled to convince Anderson that a memorandum of understanding was even necessary, and the two often pointed fingers at each other when problems arose, rather than working together to find solutions.
But oversight officials say they’re optimistic about this new phase of their relationship with MNPD, and that the newfound rapport between the oversight board and MNPD will likely continue to evolve in the coming months. The organization says its executive committee plans to give it final approval at a meeting next week.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.