The conversation was supposed to be about Nashville’s new police headquarters, but a billboard stole the spotlight. 

The message was from the Fraternal Order of Police. It’s not new, and that’s the problem.

“The feel unappreciated, overworked and understaffed,” said FOP President James Smallwood.

Thursday’s ribbon cutting at the new police HQ building on Murfreesboro Road provided a captive audience for the message. The FOP bought a one-day billboard right across the street. 

“If we’re not going to correct our course and start supporting our police officers,” said Smallwood, “public safety is going to be compromised.”

Nashville Mayor David Briley said the billboard would not change his course. He agreed there is work to be done, and he acknowledged some of the same problems.

“There is certainly work to be done to make sure we’re compensating our officers at a level that not just gives them a little bit more money, but frankly demonstrates the respect they deserve and need in this community,” conceded Briley.  

But Smallwood added, “we’ve gotta correct our course and show that we’re actually doing something. not just talking about it.”

The mayor says some of the issues will be addressed when the budget season starts this spring. But it is unclear how the city will pay for raises.