Some Nashville councilmembers want Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson to step down, and they are preparing a resolution that would ask Mayor John Cooper for Anderson’s resignation.
Nashville activists have called on Anderson to step down in the past, but now have the support of some city councilmembers. District 29 Councilmember Delishia Porterfield says she feels empowered by the nationwide movement supporting calls for police reform to be one of the resolution’s sponsors.
“Communities all over the country are calling for a public safety system that works for everyone,” she says, “and that means we have to have leadership that our communities trust and we have to make sure we are moving forward together.
The resolution cites perceived missteps by the chief, including his dismissal of a 2017 study that showed racially disparate traffic stops and says he has resisted the police oversight board. Members are also troubled by the department’s issuance of arrest warrants for prominent black activists last week. Those warrants were withdrawn after the district attorney’s office determined there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges.
The Nashville Scene reports 13 councilmembers have initially signed on, and at least one more voiced her support last night on Twitter. The measure was not raised at the meeting, but could be next week.
Cooper did not directly respond to the calls for Anderson’s resignation, saying in a prepared statement that’s committed to accountability for police in general.
“We will continue to hold our law enforcement leadership to our community’s highest standards for public safety while engaging in a 360-degree evaluation of policing and public safety policies and practices,” Cooper said.
Meanwhile, an MNPD spokesperson said in a written statement that Anderson is still “committed to carrying out a public safety mission that protects Nashville’s families in all neighborhoods while, at the same time, building positive relationships in particularly underserved communities.”
“Successes are happening, and the department wants to build on and build out those successes,” he wrote. “Chief Anderson welcomes one-on-one dialogue with councilmembers.”
Until now, supporters of the Community Oversight Board have been the main critics of Anderson. They say the chief has been a roadblock as the board tries to do independent investigations of allegations of MNPD misconduct and policing policies.
COB investigations have stalled because it didn’t have access to public records. A police spokesperson confirmed records were being held because they dealt with open criminal cases. In 2016, a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling found records request can be denied in pending criminal investigations to protect the victim’s privacy.
After months of back and forth, the two institutions were able to come to an agreement on how their relationship will work but disputes have still come up.
“If he continues to stay in office, he will continue to be a behind-the-scenes player in obstructing the work of the oversight board and effectively rendering it less effective than what it could be,” says Sekou Franklin, a member of Community Oversight Now, a group that backs the COB.
At a recent press conference, Anderson said he thought direct dialogue was needed to improve relations between the COB and Metro police.
“I think that we sit down and discuss things as opposed to issuing public statements,” he said. “We should not argue about the things we have already reduced to writing. We should define what each of our roles are and act accordingly.”
Porterfield says if Anderson stays council will figure out other ways to address community demands for reform including revising MNPD’s use-of-force policy, which Mayor Cooper previously said that the city will review.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Sekou Franklin’s affiliation. He’s a member of Community Oversight Now, not the COB.