A prominent faith-based activist group is speaking up against police brutality after a hiatus from criminal justice reform work.
Nashville Organized for Action and Hope is using its sway with the mayor and the police department to call for change.
On Thursday, about 15 NOAH members demonstrated outside the Metro Nashville Police Department Headquarters, holding signs with phrases like “require deescalation” and “ban chokeholds.”
The press conference starts with a prayer for peace and justice for all people in Nashville. pic.twitter.com/qu8gHSYlRn
— Samantha Max (@samanthaellimax) September 10, 2020
In a letter to interim police chief John Drake, the group laid out a combination of immediate and long-term demands. In the near future, they’re calling for:
- The suspension of no-knock search warrants
- A schedule for the full rollout of body-worn and in-car cameras for all police precincts
- Quarterly external audits of body and dash camera force
- Full adoption of the national #8cantwait recommendations
Some reform measures, they said, would require more discussion, including:
- A mental health crisis response team that includes mental illness specialists who are not police officers
- Investigations into allegations of “misconduct, sexual abuse and affiliations with white supremacist hate groups within the department”
- Cultural competency training and tests for officers
- Limiting power of police unions
- More diversity in department leadership
- Full support of the Community Oversight Board, including giving the agency power to terminate officers
- More transparency regarding police records
Rev. Judy Cummings said that, for too long, the country and the city have allowed two systems of justice to proliferate — one for white people and another for people of color.
“Nashville is the ‘It City.’ But it is not the ‘It City’ for everybody,” she said. “The inequitable city structure that permeates every operating system, from the top down, has caused a great divide that has resulted in a large number of our Black and brown citizens not feeling a sense of safety, security or belonging.”
Cummings also cited both local and national instances of police use of force and racism in law enforcement as the impetus for their demands.
She mentioned a wrongful raid last month at the Edgehill public housing apartments, where officers burst through the door of young woman’s home early in the morning, with guns drawn, while she was unclothed. Cummings compared it to the killing of Breonna Taylor during a similar raid in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Growing out of this recent local tragedy and the senseless acts of racial violence committed by police officers across this country,” she says, “NOAH is calling for justice.”
Jerome Moore, a member of the group’s criminal justice task force, says they won’t stop until city leaders meet their demands.
“We’re really past talking at this point. Too much has happened, too much has occurred, and it’s time to take action,” he says. “If we have to demonstrate and protest every single day, that’s what we have to do. The Montgomery boycott — bus boycott — was 381 days. And so, we can do 382 if necessary.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.