NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville’s Community Oversight Board held its first meeting Monday night since the Tennessee legislature voted to pass a bill to abolish COBs in the state last Thursday.
Nashville residents overwhelmingly voted to create the COB in 2018. The group conducts independent investigations into police misconduct allegations, among other duties.
If Gov. Bill Lee doesn’t veto the bill within 10 days of it reaching his desk, excluding Sundays, it would become law even without his signature.
The executive director of Metro’s COB, Jill Fitcheard, told News 2 the bill’s passage is “disappointing,” and it came at a terrible time following the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.
“I think it’s very telling on what (Tennessee lawmakers) think about police accountability work and what they think about citizens experiencing brutalization,” Fitcheard said. “Obviously, they don’t have any regard for that.”
The bill was drafted after the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation claimed COBs have the potential to contaminate crime scenes and hurt police investigations, according to the bill’s sponsor. Metro’s COB has denied the allegation.
During the COB’s first meeting since the bill was sent to the governor’s desk, members called on the public to urge the governor to veto the legislation.
“Right now, I’m asking anyone within the sound of my voice to call the governor’s office now, to email the governor now, and ask the governor not to take away the voted right of the people,” Michael Milliner, Metro COB’s chair, said.
COB members have not disclosed how they plan to move forward if the bill becomes law.
However, some members discussed possibly working with groups, including the ACLU and NAACP, on a lawsuit against the state, claiming voter suppression.
Fitcheard expressed her concern about the fate of the 13 COB members, should the bill pass.
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“If they move into this new system, there’s no speak of whether we would have a staff or what would happen to the civil servants who are now employed here,” Fitcheard said.
Lee’s office told News 2 as always, the governor will review final legislation once it reaches his desk.
If the bill becomes law, the changes would go into effect 120 days after its passage.