NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Community Review Board is raising concerns over the lack of patrol officers on the Metro Nashville Police Department, claiming just 36% of the force is on the roads, but Metro’s chief argues too many officers in neighborhoods could be a bad thing.
Metro is around 160 officers short, according to the department, and the CRB’s assistant director, David Kieley told News 2, some community members have complained about slower response times when they call 911. He added some CRB members believe the way Metro distributes their officers is contributing to the problem, citing the lack of patrol officers on the force.
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“I think to the layperson, to your average Nashvillian or anyone in the country, patrol is kind of what you think of when you think of police,” Kieley said. “It’s kind of the first thing that comes to mind.”
The International City County Managers Association recommends police departments assign around 60% of its officers to patrol, but Metro currently has around 36% of officers on patrol, according to the CRB.
“We know MNPD says frequently that they’re short by about 200 officers, they’ve been saying that for years, so the question I think internally to the department becomes, where are these resources going?” Kieley said.
News 2 asked Chief John Drake a similar question at a Metro Police Academy graduation where the department welcomed six experienced officers to the force.
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Drake told News 2 he is working to beef up patrol numbers. Twenty new officers will graduate the academy in January, and 35 recruits will start the academy this Thursday.
However, Drake said too many officers on the road can also be a bad thing.
“The goal is not to have people out there and over-policing neighborhood,” Drake said. “That’s never been my philosophy, and we’ve been quite successful with that. We are going to beef up patrol, and that’s the goal of bringing in [academy] class after class, but there are people out there committing harms and doing bad things, and we have to do something with them.”
Drake explained the department’s “precision policing” efforts, which include dedicating resources toward investigative units so officers can focus on the criminals doing the community the most harm. He added the department also has specialized units that connect community members with services.
“We’re not trying to arrest our way out of situations, out of problems, we actually want to help people.”
Despite the CRB’s claims, Metro’s response times for violent crimes have increased from around 10 minutes in 2020 to 15 minutes in 2022, Metro argues some of the data the CRB used is skewed because officers may have forgotten to clear a call after it was resolved.
According to Metro’s numbers, the average response time to violent crimes was 12.8 minutes in 2022 with an eight-minute travel time to the call. So far in 2023, the response time has decreased to 12.7 minutes.