Nashville Oversight Board supporters weigh in on subpoena power bill

Local News

A bill to limit police oversight boards, like the one in Nashville, sits on the governor’s desk. Oversight supporters who fought changes to board policies believe there may be some good in this bill.  

The debate centered around subpoenas that would force people to testify and turn over documents.  

State lawmakers decided police oversight boards can have subpoena power, so long as it’s approved by their city council.  

“If you’re comfortable with it, I’m comfortable with it,” noted Rep. William Lamberth as the bill passed this week. “Even though my desires aren’t being reflected in this either.” 

The heated debate came to a close Monday, and Nashville’s Community Oversight subpoenas may soon lie in the hands of Metro Council.  

“The legislation weakens our community oversight board,” noted Sekou Franklin, with the Community Oversight Now Coalition. “But it doesn’t eliminate it, so our board still has room to be fairly effective.” 

Sekou Franklin believes this bill may lead to more transparency.  

“An issue that typically would be out of sight out of mind, decided by a judge,” he explained, when describing how subpoena requests have worked on other oversight boards. “Now you’re allowing for potentially anything related to subpoena power be put before Council, to be viewed by the broader national public and by voters.” 

The topic just two months ago was narrower. Legislators argued whether these boards deserved subpoena power at all.  

“Our officers in Nashville, if you spend time with them, and I know surely to goodness you have, they are demoralized. they’ve been knocked down,” noted Lamberth, during a heated debate on the legislation in February. “I cannot sit here in this chair, elected to represent the people of this state, and let injustice anywhere stand just because it happens to be popular in a couple of cities.” 

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