Talks between the Metro Nashville Police Department and the new civilian group tasked with investigating it are back on track.
The Community Oversight Board has struggled to solidify a working relationship with police, as it nears the end of its first year in existence, and progress had stalled for weeks as tensions brewed between police Chief Steve Anderson and former COB Executive Director William Weeden.
But changes in the negotiation teams seem to have broken through that tension.
There have been moments when a formal agreement between Metro Police and the COB seemed far from reach. Heated email exchanges, rejected meeting invitations, strained closed-door discussions all seemed to signal a contentious relationship ahead.
And at the height of hostility between the two groups, Weeden resigned, saying he hadn’t felt supported by the board during the negotiation process.
But last month, Mayor John Cooper convened a three-person task force, with one delegate from his office, one from the COB, and one from the police department. The goal is to draft a memorandum of understanding that would guide relations between police and the COB.
“Nashvillians want and expect the COB and MNPD to work together to strengthen trust and provide accountability,” Cooper said in a statement.
Deputy Chief Mike Hagar has taken Anderson’s place on behalf of the police and COB member Phyllis Hildreth is representing the oversight board. The Metro Council’s legal director, Bob Cooper, is acting as a mediator. He served on the COB until his Metro staff appointment last month.
This fresh set of negotiators seems to be making progress, without the baggage from the last round of meetings.
But one of the board members drafting the memorandum of understanding, Matthew Sweeney, says the group still has to work through a few hefty sections in the COB’s proposed agreement. The task force will discuss several of the “most substantive” articles this week, he said.
“Pretty much, when you get through those, you’ve gotten through a lot of the meat,” he said.
The task force will meet again later this week for another round of negotiations. They hope to have an agreement in place by the end of this year or — at the latest — next month.
“There is no, in essence, set end date,” Sweeney said. “But so long as they continue to make progress, it’ll be viewed as positive.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.