After a thoughtful and tedious process, Metro Council has selected the 11 people who will serve on the voter-demanded Community Oversight Board.
Amendment 1 was passed in November with 58 percent of voters in favor of creating the board to investigate complaints against Metro Police.
The referendum required seven board members to be nominated by community organization or private petition, four of those to live in economically distressed neighborhoods, two members to be nominated by council representatives and two to be nominated by the mayor.
Mayor David Briley’s nominees were unanimously approved by council earlier in the week. The remaining 9 were approved in a special called meeting Tuesday night that lasted until nearly midnight.
Brenda Ross, a retired East Nashville activist, was the final person chosen to serve on the board. She said, “Yes, I am ready to go to work. It will be a lot of work and I’m ready.”
Ross, and 3 others, Ashlee Davis, Jamel Campbell-Gooch and Andres Martinez and the 4 members who live in economically distressed areas, as required by the referendum.
Davis, a diversity and inclusion strategist at Cargill, served in the Obama Administration for 6-and-a-half-years, working in the Department of Agriculture and the White House.
She calls her appointment, “a great honor and an immense responsibility.”
“I grew up less than 600 years from Preston Taylor projects and like I said was privileged to go what I believe is the best high school in the nation but also realize that poverty and displacement is real. I’m a queer African-American woman right and so for many reasons there are boxes that can be checked against me but I also live in an immense amount of privilege as well,” she explained. “I’m legally trained, went to Howard University School of Law and so I’ve seen it on both sides of the track and I keep, I guess one foot in each space and realize I’ve got to keep my eyes open and so I’m looking forward to listening but also leaning an ear to those who sometimes feel voiceless.”
Campbell-Gooch works for and was nominated to serve by Gideon’s Army.
He envisions the Community Oversight Board as “a place where all parties can be heard fairly and share some type of empathy with each other and hopefully come together so Nashville can be a secure place for people on sides.”
He added, “Ideally, the board should be a place where power is shared, right, where there is power with relationships where it should be relationship driven, relationship, relationship, I can’t say it enough.”
Martinez works as a policy and communications director for Conexion Americas, an advocacy group for Latino families.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity for police to work better with the community, to improve safety for all,” said Martinez.
The Fraternal Order of Police nominated 2 of the people who were eventually selected, Danita Marsh and Emmett Turner.
Marsh was working as a Metro Police officer in 2006 when she was shot and attacked while responding to a domestic violence call. Marsh was in her patrol car taking a report from a domestic violence victim when the woman’s abuser shot Marsh several times and beat her with the stock of his gun. Marsh is now paralyzed from the waist down.
She brings experience as a police officer and in her current role at the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center.
Emmett Turner, Nashville’s former police chief, was also appointed to serve on the board. In his interview, he said, “Nashville used to be a city where people could work, play, and live in a safe environment and I want to see that happen again.”
Walter Holloway, a former Metro Police officer, was nominated by Council member Brenda Haywood.
Matthew Sweeney, an attorney and former circuit court judge, was nominated by Council members Bob Mendes, Fabian Bedne, Anthony Davis and Mina Johnson.
Adele Lewis, deputy chief medical examiner for the Tennessee Department of Health, was nominated by the Nashville Academy of Medicine and approved by council.
Mayor Briley’s nominees are former Attorney General Bob Cooper and Phyllis Hildreth, an administrator at American Baptist College.
According to the referendum, “The Board shall have the power to investigate allegations that MNPD officers have committed misconduct against members of the public, as well as issue policy advisory and resolution reports assessing allegations of misconduct by MNPD, recommendations to agencies involved in public safety and the administration of justice, and have the option of establishing a monitoring program that provides an ongoing review or audit of the complaint process administered by the MNPD Office of Professional Accountability (“OPA”) or equivalent internal affairs program in MNPD. The Board may refer a matter to the MNPD OPA and recommend that discipline be given within the parameters of civil service rules and regulations, and MNPD shall respond to disciplinary recommendations in writing. The Board has the option to forward resolution reports that produce factual findings of criminal misconduct and civil rights violations to the District Attorney, Grand Jury, or U.S. Attorney. The Board shall have all powers, including the power to compel, identified in Section 18.10 of the Metropolitan Charter.”
Members of the inaugural board will serve at least one year with successive board members serving staggered 3-year terms. The board is required to be fully operational by March 29.