A multi-year effort to create a police oversight board in Nashville reached a milestone moment Tuesday night as the Metro Council elected the city’s first 11-person Community Oversight Board.
The group will have the power to investigate allegations of misconduct against Metro police officers, recommend discipline and review policing policies. In addition to the volunteer board, Metro will create a nine-person paid staff, which includes independent investigators and researchers.
The council made their picks during a tedious five-hour meeting Tuesday night. Two nominees from the mayor were previously approved. To choose the remaining nine members, the council sifted through more than 150 nominees and used a sequence of more than 10 rounds of voting to make their picks.
Vice Mayor Jim Shulman, who led the meeting, said more than enough candidates were qualified, making for difficult votes.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of watching people who just stepped up to the plate, many of which have not been in this [Council Chamber], many who have never served on boards and commissions,” Shulman said.
Nashville’s oversight board will be composed of:
- Bob Cooper, a former Tennessee Attorney General and adjunct law professor
- Phyllis Hildreth, a vice president at American Baptist College who held high-ranking criminal justice jobs in Maryland
- Ashlee Davis, who works in diversity and inclusion for Cargill Inc.
- Jamel Campbell-Gooch, an activist who works with Gideon’s Army
- Andrés Martinez, policy director at Conexión Américas
- Brenda Ross, a neighborhood activist and property manager
- Emmett Turner, former Nashville police chief from 1996 to 2003
- Adele Lewis, a medical examiner who frequently provides expert testimony in criminal trials
- Danita Marsh, a former police officer who now works as a mediator
- Matthew Sweeney, an attorney at Baker Donelson and former judge
- Walter Holloway, a retired Metro police officer
The oversight board’s diversity is immediately apparent.
Seven of 11 members are black, one Latino, and at least two identify as LGBT. Six are men and five are women. They live across the city, including representatives from North Nashville, East Nashville, West Nashville, Hermitage and West Meade, according to nominee applications.
The first member elected Tuesday night, Ashlee Davis, wrote specifically about her combination of perspectives when applying for the board:
“My identity as a queer woman of color with a law degree and experience working at the highest levels of federal government means that I understand what it means to be privileged and what it means and feels like to be socially disadvantaged and invisible in spaces,” she wrote.
Davis, who drew strong praise during her interview last week, also weighed in on the relationship between police and residents.
“It is imperative that the presence of law enforcement officers is seen as a positive catalyst for change,” she wrote, “and imperative that these public servants have the trainings and tools necessary to be effective in the communities where they serve.”
Petition Led To Charter Amendment
Last year, a coalition gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot asking for the creation of an oversight board. In November, 59 percent of voters approved Amendment 1, which spells out the powers of the board and how its members would be elected.
Council leaders have said the board will assist in the hiring of a full-time executive director, who will lead the nine-person staff that will work with the volunteer board. A timeline for those decisions has not been announced.
Meanwhile, the legitimacy of the election that created the oversight board has been challenged in court. The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently sided with the oversight board, but the Fraternal Order of Police has said it is appealing to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which must decide whether to hear the challenge.