NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A study led by the Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board (MNCO) reveals Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) response times have increased by 66% from 2019 to 2022.

This is a national issue, but the board said this study is helping find the root of the problem in Nashville, which includes lack of staffing and high caseloads in a growing city.

“I think it’s a host of things,” said Jill Fitcheard, executive director of MNCO. “It’s utilization, allocation, it’s top heaviness, it’s officer shortage.”

Research by the International City County Managers Association has suggested a “Rule of 60” for patrol officers, saying 60% of sworn in officers in a department should be dedicated to patrol staffing. The board’s report said only 36% of Metro police staff are dedicated to patrol.

“While the Rule of 60 isn’t to be treated as an absolute, such a big gap should raise a flag for the department,” the report notes.

To address a lack of staffing, James Smallwood, president of Nashville’s Fraternal Order of Police, suggested the department look into increased pay and benefits to attract more qualified candidates.

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Compared to 14 major U.S. cities, the study reported Nashville had the second highest increase in response times and the third longest overall response time in 2022.

“Traffic conditions, including volume and construction, can impact response times, as can specific incidents occurring within a particular precinct,” said a spokesperson for MNPD in a statement. “Surges in call volume also impact response times.”

MNPD has programs in place to try and help, including an app where people can self-report low level crime and a federal grant funding research on processing low priority calls with artificial intelligence.

“Officers have to respond to violent crime and if they’re spending a lot of time on taking reports or doing traffic accidents, even though the police department has made some waves in that, I still think that people have an understanding that police are going to respond when they call them,” said Fitcheard. “No one once to sit around for five to six hours waiting to hear for a police officer.”

“MNPD could look internally and look how their allocating their officers, look at civilianizing certain officer duties to reduce the work load so that patrol officers could really respond to what they need to respond to which is violent crime,” said Gavin Crowell-Williamson, lead research analyst for MNCO.

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The oversight board’s research highlighted clearance rates compared to case loads and found metro precincts with smaller case loads are likely to have higher clearance rates.

“I think that really speaks to the need to think about how officers and how resources are being allocated, not just across the department but across the precincts as well,” said Crowell-Williamson.

The board said they’re prepared to continue the conversation with Metro Police and urges further consideration of:

  • EMS call structure
  • Performance goals and the department’s achievement of such goals
  • MNPD officer’s system for call prioritization
  • Patrol officer staffing
  • A workload/staffing analysis
  • Clearance rates across unit and precinct
  • Community perception of whether their needs are being met by MNPD and the Department of Emergency Communications

“Any time that there is a conversation about policing in this city, we should be at the table,” said Fitcheard. “We do a significant amount of work to try and mitigate risk as well as hold police officers accountable and without our voice at the table, I don’t think that things are going to be highlighted the way that they should be.”