NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — By a 24 to 14 vote with one abstention, Nashville leaders voted to approve the full implementation of a license plate reader program, but that decision came with caveats.
After a 6-month pilot program, the Metro Nashville Police Department said the fixed and mobile cameras helped them find cars being sought by law enforcement, leading to 112 arrests and 87 vehicles recovered.
“The last thing we want to do is get in a high speed pursuit, and that’s typically what happens when an officer gets behind the car, runs the tag, realizes it’s stolen, attempts to stop it…it’s almost always going to run. This gave us an opportunity to establish a plan, get assets together like aviation, and in fact, a lot of those folks were taken into custody without traffic stops; they were followed until they were stopped,” said MNPD Deputy Chief Chris Gilder.
However, some Nashville residents and councilmembers said the cameras can lead to an overpolicing of people of color. They also said most of the cameras were put in non-white and low income areas.
Councilman Jeff Syracuse, however, did seek to ease those concerns with an amendment to a resolution implementing the program. That amendment clarifies that two or more votes will be needed to be taken by the next council before the program is started.
Secondly, the amendment says if there is an indication of a data breach, the contract with the LPR vendor will be terminated.
Third, it says MNPD will need to consult with community advisory groups in each precinct to decide where these cameras will go.
However, councilman Dave Rosenberg stressed, after asking the Metro attorney, the amendment is not legally binding. He said it is just “words on a piece of paper” and doesn’t change the substance of the resolution.
Another issue brought up was the cost of the program, which Metro police estimated will cost over $3,000 a camera. The police department is also considering starting with 117 cameras.
Councilman Freddie O’Connell, who is in the runoff to be mayor, voted against the bill.