In early June, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said city officials would review the Metro Nashville Police Department’s use of force policies.
But a racially diverse coalition of Nashvillians is calling for city officials to do more than create task forces and reform old police policies. They’re holding firm on their goal to abolish the city’s police department.
“We don’t need reform, we need something new,” Gideon’s Army organizer Jamel Campbell Gooch says.
“For us the problem is deeply clear: It’s police violence, overpolicing in our neighborhoods, incarceration of our family members, the fact that our family members sit in jail because they can’t afford to make bail,” Southerners On The Ground organizer Erica Perry says.
Two weeks ago, city councilmembers increased funding for Metro Nashville Police Department, despite dozens of community members saying during the budget process and protests that they want the department to be defunded.
Since then, Police Chief Steve Anderson announced his retirement and the district attorney’s office said it won’t prosecute people for less than half an ounce of weed.
But Daniel Ayoade Yoon says you can’t reform systems not designed to serve marginalized communities, which will still face collateral damage from interactions with the criminal justice system.
“The same racial disparities that exist in marijuana low-level offenses, and the same consequences that are so unfair that the district attorney did speak to — those still exist in all of our other criminalized areas,” he says.
The coalition says it will continue to organize community members until racist systems are abolished. Community organizers say Nashville needs to invest in education, affordable housing and health care.